Wisconsin voters line up to cast early in-person ballots

Voters across Wisconsin lined up Tuesday to cast their ballots on the first day of early in-person voting in the presidential battleground state, marking the beginning of the final push to Election Day in two weeks.

Locations and times to vote Tuesday varied across the state, but lines were reported in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Sheboygan. Voters can also drop off completed absentee ballots at locations around the state, including in specially installed drop boxes in some larger cities.

"I took about 10 minutes and I was in and out," said first-time early voter Stuart Check, a 31-year-old attorney from Milwaukee. "I’ll probably vote early from now on because it’s so easy."

The campaigns of President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, were encouraging their supporters to vote early in Wisconsin, which Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes four years ago. Trump held a rally in the southern Wisconsin community of Janesville on Saturday.

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Biden said in a statement Tuesday that if voters can cast their ballots early, they should.

"You can be one of the first to move our country forward," he said.

Wisconsin Democrats kicked off a "What’s at Stake" bus tour to encourage early voting, with stops planned Tuesday in Madison and Waukesha before hitting eight other cities through Sunday. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers hailed early voting as "one of the things that makes voting easier and that’s what we should be all about."

A coalition of local and national Black leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Justin Blake, the uncle of Jacob Blake who was shot by Kenosha police in August, began a 33-mile march early Tuesday morning from Kenosha to Milwaukee. The rally was to mark the first day of early voting along with calls for justice against police violence, organizers said.

Republicans held a virtual "Get Out the Early Vote" rally with their supporters, where state party chairman Andrew Hitt stressed the importance of voting now.

"A vote we can bank early is a vote we can scratch off our list and go on to someone else," Hitt said. "This period right now, there’s just no period more important than right now."

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, who represents northeastern Wisconsin, said he planned to vote early in the village of Allouez near Green Bay, but the line was too long.

"I think that suggests people are fired up," Gallagher said. "People are going to be coming out."

The window to vote early and in-person will remain open for 11 days, until Nov. 1, and none of the ballots can be counted until after polls open at 7 a.m. on Election Day, which is Nov. 3.

With the coronavirus surging in Wisconsin, many people have been seeking alternate ways to vote than having to deal with crowded polling stations on Nov. 3. As of Tuesday, more than 915,000 voters had returned absentee ballots. That is 30% of the total votes cast in the 2016 presidential election.