Thousands vote early in Rock County
JACKSON, Ga. Thousands of area residents already cast their ballots over the past two weeks, but some clerks say it's not as many as the last presidential election.
A handful of area clerks say they have seen about the same number of people voting absentee or voting early in person as in the 2008 presidential election.
"I think the vast majority of people who voted absentee in person were excited to cast their ballot," Beloit City Clerk Rebecca Houseman said. "Some people were going out of town, but that wasn't the majority."
In Janesville, 8,900 people had voted through Friday, the last day of early voting when about 1,150 people showed up, Janesville City Clerk Jean Wulf said. That compares to about 8,700 absentee votes in 2008.
The longest wait over the past two weeks was about an hour, she said.
"Really, it was very similar to 2008," she said.
The difference, however, was voters had about a month to vote absentee in 2008, while that period was changed by law to two weeks this year.
The shorter time period might be one reason why numbers stayed the same, said town of Fulton Clerk/Treasurer Connie Zimmerman. She had 686 ballots returned of the 691 absentee ballots she issued. That's down from about 800 in the last election.
In the town of Janesville, 1,120 absentee ballots were cast, which is about 100 fewer than in 2008, town of Janesville Clerk Linda Fewell said.
"I thought it was going to be a lot more," she said, but noted she had limited hours.
Statewide, more than 545,000 people requested absentee ballots, according to officials who track the numbers using the Statewide Voter Registration System. The absentee ballot number is not complete, however, because only military and permanent overseas absentee ballots are required to be tracked in the voter registration system, according to a news release.
Wisconsin voters in 2008 cast 633,610 absentee ballots, 21 percent of the 2.99 million total ballots cast.
More than 30 million people already have voted in 34 states and the District of Columbia, either by mail or in person, according to the Associated Press.
Area clerks were happy that early voting ended Friday, giving them Monday to deal with absentee ballots and prepare for today. Zimmerman's office turned away about 20 people Monday who showed up to vote.
People come in and say it's so great to be able to vote early, Zimmerman said.
Houseman, who was processing more than 3,000 absentee ballots in Beloit, explained the complicated process:
After a voter casts his or her ballot, it is put into an envelope, which is sealed and signed by the voter and a witness. The ballot is entered into the statewide voter registration software, which produces a label that is attached to the envelope.
In Beloit today, the more than 3,000 absentee ballots will be delivered to the various polling places.
As time allows, the envelopes will be opened, and the ballots will be assigned voter numbers and processed through voting machines.
"It's a lot of work compared to just voting at (your) polling place," Houseman said.