More than 400,000 Wisconsin residents have requested absentee ballots so far for Tuesday's election, but the numbers can't be compared with previous presidential elections, state elections officials said.
"Based on our limited numbers, absentee voting continues to be robust around the state," said Kevin Kennedy, head of the state Government Accountability Board. "One week ago, 225,209 absentee ballots had been requested."
As of late Wednesday, local election clerks who track absentee ballots using the state system reported at least 412,611 voters had requested absentee ballots, including 256,277 ballots requested in clerks' offices where the residents could cast their votes and hand the ballot back.
The absentee voting period has now been limited by Republican lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker to two weeks and comparable pre-election numbers from four years ago, when the absentee voting period was about a month, are not available. In 2008, 634,000 of the nearly 3 million ballots cast were absentee, but it's not really possible to compare the two sets of numbers.
That's because clerks don't have to report absentee ballot numbers to state officials until after the election, though more than half of municipal clerks, including all those in the state's large cities, track at least some absentee ballots in the state system.
"We would prefer not to release these numbers, but everybody wants some kind of numbers so we're releasing them," said Reid Magney, spokesman for the Accountability Board. "It's apples and kumquats."
In-person absentee voting in the clerk's office runs through 5 p.m. or the close of business on Friday, whichever is later, with some clerks offering extended hours to handle demand.
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