New rules for early voters: What you need to know about absentee ballots

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Election day is still more than two weeks away, but voters can start casting their ballots as soon as Monday morning, October 20th. That's when early voting starts, and this year there are some new rules.

For months, the candidates have had their say in debates.

"Overall, Wisconsin is much better off than it was four years ago," said Governor, Scott Walker.

"Governor Walker has had four years and just forming task forces now, isn't good enough," said Mary Burke.

In television ads...

"The policies my opponent supports got us in a pretty big hole," said Walker.

"You know who had a really bad idea? Governor Walker," Burke said.

The competitors have been on the campaign trail for months, now voters will begin to have their say.

"Wisconsin is no excuse absentee voting state, so you have the option of voting absentee for any reason. You don't need any kind of documentation excuse," said Neil Albrecht, with the Milwaukee Election Commission.

In-person absentee voting, sometimes called "early voting" begins Monday, October 20th. Ballots can be cast between October 20th, and October 31st -- the two weeks prior to election day.

Early voting is no longer allowed on weekends, after the state legislature shortened the available times for early voting.

"There are no longer weekend hours, so the city of Milwaukee is offering the maximum number of hours allowable by law. We're open for the next two weeks, Monday through Friday from 8:00 in the morning until 7:00 in the evening," said Albrecht.

Actual hours vary in each municipality, so voters should check with their clerks ahead of time.

"During the first week, you can actually get in and out of early voting in 5, 10 minutes. You fill out a form, get your ballot, vote and you're out the door," Albrecht said.

The ballot is filled with headline grabbing races including the statewide contests for governor and attorney general, several statewide ballot questions, and other local races.

"It's a healthy ballot for voters," said Albrecht.

Voters do not need a photo ID in this election, the U.S. Supreme Court halted implementation of the controversial Wisconsin law until the legal challenges play-out. If you want to vote absentee by mail, the clerk has to receive your application by October 30th.

"It allows them a peace of mind to be able to cast their ballots prior to the election, and know that they've had the opportunity to vote in what is a very important election," Albrecht said.

As of October 1st, the state had more than 3.3 million registered voters, while the Government Accountability Board has not yet made a projection about voter turnout, one expert at Marquette University says turnout could be even higher than in the historic 2012 recall election, in which nearly 60% of eligible voters cast ballots -- easily the highest number for any non-presidential election in Wisconsin history.