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Early voting proves effective

If there was anything normal about this fall’s highly bizarre election, it was that a good number of people still visited the polls on the first Tuesday in November and filled out a ballot. Some folks craved that normalcy after an endless campaign season that was not only among the most contentious of our times, but was further nudged toward chaos with a public health threat, and a slew of election process changes and resultant court actions to stop or limit them.

Regardless of the outcome of the voting -- and this was written before those results were known -- one thing this election will long be remembered for is the movement away from traditional voting procedures. While we don’t see a time in the forseeable future when in-person Election Day voting will not be a part of the process, the balloting of 2020 has shown that early voting and voting by mail (or possibly other remote) means is not only acceptable to the public but perhaps even a step to involve more citizens in the democratic system.

The numbers are compelling. As of Monday -- according to Opportunity Wisconsin -- 1,886,533 Wisconsin voters had already cast ballots. That’s 52.6 percent of the total number of registered voters in the state (as of Oct. 1). Of the more than 1.4 million absentee ballots citizens requested from their municipal clerks, more than 87 percent of them had been completed and returned by Monday.

Those numbers tell us two things: 1.) The presidential and other downballot races have generated strong voter interest, and 2.) Citizens trust the mail-in and early in-person voting options. In addition to the 1.4 million absentee ballot requests, another 644,843 Wisconsinites went to their polling places early for in-person ballots.

Coronavirus concerns are undoubtedly a main driver of that trend, as citizens were leery of waiting in line for hours and possibly contracting COVID-19 while doing it. The upside of that is that many citizens first learned of the early voting options this year, and were obviously willing to ponder their ballot choices in the comfort of their own homes rather than in a booth with a long line behind them. We suspect strong early voting numbers will be here to stay, and may likely even increase as technology brings with it new ways for people to cast secure ballots.

Anything that boosts voter participation is a good thing; if you say otherwise, then you’re likely scared of what increased participation means for your political viewpoint, which ought to make you think a little anyway. As for the argument that mail-in voting leads to election fraud, well, someone needs to show us some evidence. Many baseless statements have been made about mail ballot fraud and a “rigged” election, but, in fact, cases of prosecuted fraud are almost non-existent.

We commend everyone who did go to the polls on Tuesday, as your singular effort is what creates a strong nation. Likewise, kudos to those who found new options to vote this year. The old way of doing things surely has worked, but there’s no reason improvements should be ignored.