Walker, Beware: Huge Early Voting in Madison

It’s mid-afternoon at the city-county building in Madison, Wisconsin, and a steady stream of six or seven residents keeps filing in to vote early in the race between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett.

“We’ve had over 8,000 votes so far in the first three days,” says Maribeth Witzel, the city clerk of Madison. By comparison, for the 2010 governor’s race between Walker and Barrett, she says her office “issued just over 10,000 total and that was for a month’s time.”

With eight days to go in early voting this time, if this pace keeps up, twice as many Madison voters will have cast their ballots in this election in the two weeks that were available than all those in Madison who cast early ballots last time.

So the pace is more than four times what it was in 2010. And it even appears to be breaking the pace of 2008 when there were 30,000 early voters over a month’s time, according to Witzel.

This bodes ill for Walker.

Madison is overwhelmingly Democratic.

In the 2010 election in Madison, Barrett beat Walker by almost a four-to-one margin: 83,939 to 23,798.

If turnout is much higher this time in Madison, as early voting indicates, then Barrett will get a big bounce.

The early voters I talk to at the city-county building tell me they are taking a stand against Walker.

Bill Colby, 71, says Walker was “deceptive” when he ran the first time. “The most important issue is to restore collective bargaining and the cuts to education and BadgerCare,” he says. “I’m hoping people will think about the heavy-handed way Walker has dealt with the political economy.”

Philip Klein, 68, says, “What’s happened to the state under Walker is devastating. He’s destroyed our ability to talk to each other. And his attack on public employees is the first step in the attack on workers in general.” Klein, a retired public sector worker, says he hears from his former colleagues all the time with stories on how “punitive” the workplace is now under Walker. “All kinds of flexibility has been taken away from the workplace,” he says. “People can’t even drop their kids off at the day care center anymore.” Even a former manager of his is “upset about how management is acting,” he says. “It’s terrible.”

Mocking Walker’s campaign slogan, Klein says, “Wisconsin is not open for business. It’s been sold.”

Laura Perry, 63, simply says, “I want my state back.”

I ask Carol Solomon, 72, about who got her vote.

“Not Scott Walker,” she says. “He’s hideous.”

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Wisconsin gubernatorial recall race is historic."

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