Wisconsin voters line up to cast early in-person ballots

Across Wisconsin, early voting kicked off on Tuesday, Oct. 20. The nation will be watching what those voters decide in the battleground state with the Nov. 3 election just two weeks away.

Wisconsin voters wield great power. The state was the tipping point in 2016, giving President Donald Trump enough electoral votes to win the White House.

In 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "It's all riding on Wisconsin." President Trump said in Janesville, "If we win Wisconsin, we win the whole ball game."

Who wins depends on who turns out. Milwaukee voter turnout in 2016 sunk by 40,000 compared to 2012. President Trump won the state by fewer than 23,000 votes. It's one of three of the past five presidential elections in Wisconsin decided by less than a point.

Early voting in Milwaukee on Oct. 20, 2020

Early voting in Milwaukee on Oct. 20, 2020

"I think it's going to be a lot of voters, a lot more voters, because of all of the mess that's been going on. That's why we're getting out here today," said Milwaukee voter Denelle McManus.

Fourteen early voting sites were open in Milwaukee, the state's largest city and a hot spot for presidential campaign ads on television. The city ranks seventh nationwide in total TV ads from both campaigns, according to a recent study.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the First State Democratic Dinner in Dover, Delaware, on March 16, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

"I would crawl to get to this line, to vote this clown out of office. I have no respect for our current administration," Lotti Smith said as she lined up to vote for Joe Biden.

"The country is messed up. We need to change it, and the only way to change it is to vote," said Milwaukee voter Archie Banks, who plans to vote for Joe Biden.

Answers like Banks' aren't surprising in Milwaukee. Democrat Hillary Clinton captured 76% of the city's votes in 2016.

In Brookfield, though, a city President Trump won with 56% in 2016, many voters lined up to cast their early decision for the incumbent.

"He is an Energizer bunny," said Brookfield voter Barbara Bitton of President Trump. "I mean, in his time in office, he has really done a great job with foreign policy. ISIS is gone, stability in the Middle East, he has really championed the unborn."

Early voting in Brookfield on Oct. 20, 2020

Early voting in Brookfield on Oct. 20, 2020

President Trump was the first Republican nominee to win Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

"It's the core issues that are talked about. I feel that Trump, even if he may not say it right, he nails the issues on the head in terms of what needs to be the focus, and what needs to be talked about," said Brookfield voter Brandon Shaver.

"He's not for making taxes high. He wants to lower taxes. And, when he was president all these years, my taxes went down on my paychecks," Rebecca Heber said outside Brookfield City Hall, as she waited in line to cast her vote for President Trump.

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All early voting is done by absentee ballots; clerks cannot start to count them until 7 a.m. on Election Day.

Clerks have sent out 1.4 million absentee ballots in Wisconsin. So far, 915,00 -- or 65% -- have been returned. That's already more than in 2016, when 830,763 absentee ballots were tallied in pre-COVID-19 days.

Here’s a schedule for the early voting sites in Milwaukee:

Please note that not all sites have the same schedule.

Mondays - Fridays 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays - Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building, 841 N. Broadway, Room 102 (Registered voters enter from Market Street. Voters needing to update address/name enter from Broadway)
  • Midtown Center, N. 58th Street & W. Capitol Drive (east of Subway & west of Pick ‘n Save)
  • Zablocki Library, 3501 W. Oklahoma Avenue

Mondays & Tuesdays 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays - Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Bay View Library, 2566 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue
  • Cannon Park Pavilion, 303 N. 95th Street
  • Clinton Rose Senior Center, 3045 N. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
  • East Library, 2320 N. Cramer Street
  • Good Hope Library, 7717 W. Good Hope Road
  • Mitchell Street Library, 906 W. Historic Mitchell Street
  • Tippecanoe Library, 3912 S. Howell Avenue
  • Villard Square Library, 5190 N. 35th Street
  • Washington Park Library, 2121 N. Sherman Boulevard

Mondays - Fridays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Student Union, 2200 E. Kenwood Boulevard

Mondays - Saturdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

  • Milwaukee Area Technical College, 1101 N 6th St (T Building)

Independence First, 540 S. 1st Street

Manitoba School, 4040 W. Forest Home Avenue

Independence First and Manitoba School are by appointment only. Appointment requests will be considered after Oct. 20. Note that requests are honored based on the voter's inability to vote at any of the other sites during the scheduled voting hours. Email kdzapat@milwaukee.gov to request an appointment.

More information is available online at city.milwaukee.gov/election.

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