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People in line outside the Wil-Mar Center on Election Day in Madison.

For an election chief inspector, Election Day is not the morning to oversleep.

Despite a mishap with his alarm that caused him to arrive at Madison East High School behind schedule, chief inspector Roger Pierson and poll workers were able to set up voting equipment in the gym and open voting only about 20 minutes after the poll’s 7 a.m. opening.

“Within 23 minutes, the wait was down to 10 minutes,” Pierson said.

As of 11 a.m., 48,589 voters had hit cast their ballots in Madison, according to the city clerk's office. That number, excluding five wards that had not yet reported turnout, is low compared to the 2012 general election, when 54,548 voted by 11 a.m., but close to the figure from 2008, when 49,401 voted in the morning.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell reported a 30 percent voter turnout across the county and said there were no major issues. 

"It's pleasantly normal," McDonell said. 

The city of Madison recorded a final turnout in 2012 of 150,437 voters and 141,456 in the 2008 election. Across Dane County, 304,453 voted on election day in 2012. 


Roger Pierson, chief inspector at Madison East High School, said voting in the school gym instead of a classroom presented some "growing pains." 

Voting in the East High gym was an adjustment, Pierson said. The polling place moved from a classroom to the gym due to anticipation of high turnout. The new space brought “growing pains,” such as having to direct voters through a larger area and overseeing new poll workers.

It also brought a brief evacuation after a stray soccer ball hit a fire alarm. With the gym occupied, the school’s physical education classes were moved to another area of the school.

East principal Mike Hernandez assured voters that the ballot-counting equipment was safe during the alarm.

“Inspectors kept it secure,” he said. Voting officials remained with the voting equipment while others waited outside until the alarm stopped. Despite the fire alarm, voters reported few issues and a smooth process.

Maegan Gagne arrived at the school just as the alarm was sounding, but said voting took her about 10 minutes and was “easy.”

Earlier in the morning, at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, a line of voters stretched out the door and along South Brearly Street toward Spaight Street at 6:45 a.m.

The early morning crowd didn’t surprise Claire Skille, who registered at the polls with no major issues, chalking the process up to the east side’s relaxed personality. She was in line with Tyler Zastrow, who registered about two weeks ago but waited to vote until Election Day because he wasn't yet ready to cast his vote. 

Heather Pape, who checked in via Twitter from the west side, voted with her husband when the polls opened at the Hill Farms Transportation Building near Hilldale Shopping Center. Pape, who recently moved to Wisconsin and has an out-of-state license, said despite her own procrastination, she had no problems registering with a passport and recent paycheck and voting on Election Day.

“We registered and everything right on the spot and no trouble at all,” Pape said.

Polls close at 8 p.m. and anyone in line at a polling place by that time will be allowed to vote, according to election law. 

Early voting

Voting early soared in popularity this election with voters across the state smashing almost all previous records. But Michael Haas, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said high early voting numbers do not necessarily point to higher overall turnout.

“A number of factors may be contributing to this year’s higher absentee turnout, but the long term trend has been toward increasing use of absentee voting both by mail and in clerks’ offices,” Haas said in a statement Monday.

Across the state, nearly 800,000 absentee votes have already been cast ahead of Tuesday’s General Election, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The commission reported 797,740 absentee ballots returned to municipal clerks for counting as of Monday morning, breaking a record set in 2012 of 664,597 ballots. There were 639,913 absentee ballots counted in 2008.

The 2016 election marks the first time early voting in Madison has been available at locations other than just the city clerk's office. In July, U.S. District Judge James Peterson ruled in July in the One Wisconsin Institute case that laws limiting in-person absentee voting to one location per municipality, limiting early voting hours and eliminating weekend voting are unconstitutional.

Over 50,000 people voted early in Madison as of Tuesday morning, the city clerk's office reported Tuesday, although final numbers were not available. 

As of Oct. 27, 26,527 had voted in the city, breaking the previous record of 18,752 absentee ballots cast in person in November of 2012, according to the Madison city clerk’s office. The city clerk’s office had issued a total of 35,497 absentee ballots since Sep. 26, surpassing the previous record of 32,012 absentee ballots issued in November 2008.

Of absentee ballots issued this year, 31,421 had been returned to be counted Oct. 27. That number includes those voting early in person and breaks the previous record of 29,199 absentee votes cast in November 2012.

Those voting early are technically casting absentee ballots in person. Absentee ballots must be returned by Election Day.

This article has been corrected to reflect the type of identification Pape used at the polls. 


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