“I voted at the Chazen Museum of art, and I waited for about one minute to get through all the processes getting through [voter] registration as well as actually filling out the ballot.”
“I went to Hillel to vote and I waited in line for ten minutes.”
“I went to [the] Orpheum and surprisingly only waited for five minutes.”
“I went to Hillel to vote at 7:00 a.m. and there actually wasn’t a line because I went right when it opened.”
“I went to Hillel and it was a great time. I waited in line for about 30 seconds.”
Thousands of University of Wisconsin-Madison students cast ballots — their first ever, for some — in Tuesday’s monumental election where Wisconsin, and the student vote therein, may play a crucial role in the final outcome.
UW Promotes the Vote
A set of data-driven insights from the Tufts University Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) ranks the battleground state of Wisconsin no. 1 in terms of youth voter impact for the 2020 presidential race.
The UW-Madison Morgridge Center for Public Service’s BadgersVote initiative aims to educate and assist students in preparation for elections. Recent campaigns and events — such as Zoom the Vote sessions and Virtual Voting Office Hours — uphold the BadgersVote mission “to drive student civic and voter engagement.”
The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), ALL IN Democracy Challenge, Vote Everywhere Ambassador at UW-Madison and Big 10 Voting Challenge have partnered with the Morgridge Center to motivate students to vote in the election.
The university has also teamed up with the Associated Students of Madison (ASM) to provide detailed voter information through https://vote.wisc.edu/ — a webpage designed to provide students with answers to prospective FAQs pertaining to voter registration and the voting process.
Absentee in-person, or “early,” voting opened on campus at three locations on Oct. 20. Early voting in Wis., inclusive of on-campus polling locations, ended on Oct. 30.
“A total of 7,268 people cast early ballots on campus Oct. 20-30. That is 28 percent of the 26,223 in-person absentee ballots cast in Madison,” reported Meredith McGlone, Greg Bump and David Giroux from University Communications.
Around 7:43 p.m. on Nov. 3, the City Clerk processed 98.5 percent of Madison absentee ballots. “Total turnout 157,536 or 82.4 percent,” the Madison Wis. Clerk said in a tweet.
By 12:58 a.m. on Nov. 4, the City Clerk announced a final voter turnout of 84.7 percent in the city of Madison.
These statistics exclude out-of-state students who may have opted to vote using absentee ballots from their home states.
An Early Rush to the Polls
On Oct. 20, News 3 Now / Channel 3000 Anchor and Reporter Amanda Quintana tweeted: “NOW: Today is the first day of early in-person voting. @UWMadison students have been waiting in line for about 45 min to vote. They say it’s worth it to make sure their vote counts.”
Following the federal appeals court decision to pass on a six-day deadline extension for absentee ballot counting in the state of Wisconsin, students felt an increase in pressure to ensure their votes were counted and voices were heard. Fears of impending quarantine mandates and absentee ballots getting lost among snail mail motivated students to rush to the polls prior to Election Day.
Even so, eligible Wis. residents and UW-Madison students were given the opportunity to register to vote on the day of the election as well.
A surge of mail-in absentee ballots and early in-person absentee voting left local polls waiting for incoming voters on Election Day.
“There have been no problems or major delays at the seven City of Madison polling locations on campus, according to the City Clerk,” said McGlone, Bump and Giroux in an election mid-day media advisory email. “Many UW-Madison students are among the 6,000 people serving as Madison poll workers today.”
On-campus residents were assigned to one of five polling locations based on wards, with Ward 55 at the Nicholas Recreation Center, Ward 56 at the Chazen Art Museum, Ward 58 at Memorial Union, Ward 59 at the Wisconsin Energy Institute and Ward 60 at the University Apartments Community Center.
Students living near campus were assigned to one of four polling locations: the Pyle Center for Ward 48, Hillel for Ward 47, the Orpheum for Ward 49 and the University Club for Ward 57.
Interviewees claim their wait times at various polling locations lasted a mere ten minutes or fewer.
“I went to Hillel to vote and I waited in line for ten minutes,” said UW-Madison sophomore Mara Khabie.
Sophomore student Shayna Leeds also voted at the Hillel polls. “I went to Hillel to vote at 7 a.m. and there actually wasn’t a line because I went right when it opened,” she said.
According to UW-Madison sophomore Alexi Kotis, the wait at The Orpheum Theater polling location was surprisingly quick in its duration of only five minutes.
Why the wait?
“I waited till today to vote because I was interested in seeing how people would be together at the ballot and hopefully be levelheaded and respectable to fellow voters,” said UW-Madison first year student Scottie Waterfield about his decision to vote in-person on Election Day. “But since there was no line I guess I didn’t get to experience that, but I’m not complaining.”
Like Waterfield, many other students' desires to hold off on voting until Nov. 3 stem from an interest in experiencing the voting process on Election Day.
“Since it’s my first election I got to vote in, I thought it’d be a cool experience to vote when the energy for this election is at its highest,” said Kotis. “So many students on campus have strong emotions for this election and it feels good to contribute a vote on such an important day for our country.”
Leeds also recognized that voting on Election Day would be a memorable experience considering this is her first time voting. “[I] wanted to experience what it’s like to vote on actual election day since it’s my first time voting,” she said.
Others appeared to vote on Election Day due to prior commitments and other sudden time-consuming responsibilities.
One UW-Madison student claimed he “got wrapped up with work and chose to vote on Election Day.”
Students were majorly driven by passionate stances on issues which led them to cast their ballots at the polls on Election Day.
“I voted because the educational system, the healthcare system, and consolidation of corporate power all need to be fixed,” said UW-Madison sophomore Alex Baraban. “The fact that education is a for profit system needs to be changed, just like healthcare.”
“If I wanted my values and opinions to be counted, I needed to get to the polls and cast my vote,” said first year student Anna-Claire Theriot.
Shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Nov. 4, the Associated Press called Joe Biden’s win in Wis. with 49.6 percent of the reported votes. Donald Trump follows closely with 48.9 percent.
The city of Madison and Dane County swung blue.
Biden and Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris are heavily favored among voters on-campus and near campus wards in precinct results.