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Early voting is underway in Milwaukee for the Feb. 15 primary

Ballot drop box
Chuck Quirmbach
A ballot drop box used on Nov. 3, 2020, outside Central Library Centennial Hall in Milwaukee.

In-person absentee voting for the Feb. 15 primary has started in Milwaukee and potentially in other communities around Wisconsin. You might also know it as early voting.

Riley Vetterkind of the Wisconsin Elections Commission reminds us how early voting typically works: "You will go into your municipal clerk's office, and you'll fill out the application right there in the office. Fill out the ballot and give it back to your municipal clerk and they will securely hold onto that and deliver it to your polling place on election day to be counted."

The city of Milwaukee processes its absentee ballots at a central location rather than at the respective voting sites.

Vetterkind says communities can offer early voting as late as Feb. 13, but he warns that the clerks set the hours and locations and that the in-person absentee voting will vary by community and from site to site.

In Milwaukee, for example, the Zeidler Municipal Building and Midtown Center on the north side will offer similar but slightly different hours. Still, other schedules are set for Zablocki Library and six other city libraries. So, check the Milwaukee Election Commission website.

Already underway for this month's primary is voting absentee by mail. Vetterkind says statewide, 91,000 people have requested a ballot be mailed to them. You can still ask for one, but do it soon.

"A very conservative estimate would be about a week for the ballot to get to the voter, and then about a week for the ballot, if the voter mails it, to be mailed back to the municipality," he says.

Vetterkind says your request has to be made by Feb. 10 at 5 p.m. He says obviously a potentially much faster return option is to take the ballot back to your clerk yourself.

Last Friday night, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided to allow drop boxes for ballots for the Feb. 15 election, but not every community will offer the boxes. Milwaukee will have 15 drop boxes open until 5 p.m. on Feb. 15.

To use any of the ballot options you have to be registered to vote. Vetterkind says the deadline has already passed to register online or by mail.

"So that leaves two options. You can register at your municipal clerk's office, but the deadline for doing so is Friday, Feb. 11. And after that deadline passes, you'll need to register at the polls on election day," he says.

Citizen's Agenda: What do you want the candidates for mayor of Milwaukee to be talking about as they compete for your vote?

Vetterkind says turnout for the Feb. 15 primary is expected to be light despite the many ways to vote. However, Milwaukee may be a bit different, with seven people campaigning to be mayor.

At least one of the contenders planned a kickoff event at midday Tuesday, marking the start of early voting, or, if you prefer, in-person absentee voting.

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