On a day when mail carriers didn’t deliver and mourners packed cemeteries for solemn tributes to the dead, hundreds of others stood in long lines outside the Madison city clerk’s office, showing that in this hypercharged election season voting takes no holiday.
“I’m amazed,” said voter Allan Wessel of Madison of the turnout, which hit 379 people in four hours and produced 45-minute waits. “We thought there might be a short little line.”
The clerk’s office took the unusual step of opening for a half-day on Memorial Day, a federal holiday, to allow people to cast early ballots for the June 5 gubernatorial recall election, the first in state history. The line snaked around the corner to the City Hall entrance and, at times, got so long it turned again at the Parks Department office, creating a J-shaped line of voters who weren’t prepared for the wait.
“Welcome to the party!” a woman said to a man as he took position as the caboose, a look of shock on his face.
“Hang in there!” another woman said to the throngs as she left. “It gets faster once you get around the corner.”
The 379 votes cast Monday brings the total early vote total to 6,799 in Madison, including absentee votes by mail and in-person voting at the clerk’s office, an employee said.
Richard Sanchez, 18, was asked why he came out Monday to cast an early vote in the first election he’s eligible to vote.
“Walker,” he said, referring to embattled Republican Gov. Scott Walker, facing recall and running to keep his seat against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “His (anti-collective bargaining) bill affects both my parents.”
Sanchez and his mother, Teresa, left after waiting awhile in line. He has final exams on Election Day, June 5, but promised his mother he’d go to the polls at 7 a.m., before school starts.
For Sanchez, voting in his first election marks the conclusion of a long political journey that began last February when he, along with hundreds of other high school students, marched from West High to the Capitol during the first week of last year’s massive protests against Walker’s budget bill.
Many other voters at City Hall on Monday protested last winter and helped collect the more than 900,000 recall petitions that allowed this election to happen.
Many greetings were exchanged among old friends, all seemed to say a special thank you to the city employees who worked on a holiday and little doubt could be found about how most planned to vote in the heavily Democratic city.
“Voting Walker out is very important,” said Paul Deutsch, there with his wife, Sallie Cunningham, because they’ll be out of town June 5. “I think it will bring the state back together and put things back to the right course.”