As Election Day looms, nearly 1.9 million absentee ballots have been returned in Wisconsin as of Monday morning — about 63 percent of the state’s voting total in 2016.
Over 91.5 percent of the state’s 2,061,040 absentee ballots mailed out to voters have been returned to municipal clerks, and with the early voting period already closed, state leaders have now pivoted to mobilize voters to cast their ballots in-person.
The record for most votes ever cast in Wisconsin for a presidential election came in 2012 with a total of 3,080,628. For the 2020 election, the Elections Commission reported 3,684,726 registered voters as of Nov. 1, which means that Wisconsin could break its previous record by over 600,00 votes.
In terms of turnout rate, Wisconsin set its current record during the 2004 presidential election when 73.24 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. Around 3.3 million Wisconsin voters would need to cast their ballots in 2020 to eclipse that mark.
The almost two million absentee ballots cast represents 51 percent of Wisconsin’s registered voters.
Wisconsin traditionally records a higher voter turnout than national averages, and a recent Marquette University Law School poll found 96 percent of people surveyed had already voted, or are planning to vote, while only one percent said they would not vote.
Ten counties, including Democratic strongholds in Madison and Milwaukee, already exceeded 70 percent of their 2016 voter turnout, according to data from the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
On the other hand, smaller counties outside of the Madison and Milwaukee media markets have seen their voter turnout numbers hover around 30 percent, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
According to The New York Times, a number of counties represent “battlegrounds within battlegrounds” in Wisconsin. This includes Grant County, which flipped its support from former President Barack Obama in 2012 to now-President Trump in 2016 and Brown County, which voted for former Republican Gov. Scott Walker and at the same time it supported Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018.
The report also listed Waukesha County, a Republican stronghold, as a potential battleground site as Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden purportedly made progress in the county just outside Milwaukee.
As a key swing state, Wisconsin has seen increased national political attention in recent months after President Trump won the state by less than 23,000 votes in the 2016 presidential election. Four years later, the latest poll from the UW Elections Research Center shows Biden expanded his lead over Trump to nine points in the state.
Both candidates and their campaigns have made multiple last minute stops in Wisconsin to try to shore up support on election day. Trump held his tenth Wisconsin rally in Kenosha Monday evening after First Lady Ivanka Trump made a stop in Johnson Creek Saturday morning. Biden made a stop in Milwaukee on Friday, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., spoke to 91.7 WSUM News in Madison among others Monday.
However, candidates may not know if their work paid off by Tuesday night. It is likely Wisconsin won’t have the results of the election until Wednesday at the very earliest, due to the sheer number of absentee ballots that need to be counted and printing errors. Poll workers in Outagamie and Calumet counties will be forced to fill out as many as 13,500 replacement ballots after the original ballots contained a flaw that would not allow electronic tabulators to read the ballots.
Absentee ballots must be handed in by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to extend the deadline to count mailed-in ballots that arrive after Election Day. In-person voters who are still in line past 8 p.m. will be able to cast their ballot.