Absentee voting opened in Wisconsin last week, and supporters of Barack Obama are mobilizing to get out the early vote through the final three weeks before Election Day. The campaign is holding a series of rallies and gatherings across the state on Tuesday encouraging voters to get a jump on their trip to the polls, with a half dozen planned for in and around Madison. The big draw, though, will be a rally on the Capitol Square with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.
Nearly four years after his record-breaking, 80,000-strong rally on West Washington Avenue with Bruce Springsteen and the Foo Fighters, the former Democratic candidate for president is hosting four "Vote Early for Change" rallies for Obama around Wisconsin on Tuesday. Following stops in Milwaukee and Oshkosh, and preceding another in Mineral Point, Kerry will make his return to downtown Madison.
Obama supporters are encouraged to gather at 3:30 p.m. for the rally at the State Street entrance to the Capitol. There Kerry will be joined by Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Following the obligatory remarks and acclamations, Kerry will lead a march around the Square to the City-County Building for a round of early voting at the Madison Clerk's office.
Though it looks to be the biggest political rally so far of the campaign season, this is hardly the only early voting event in Madison on Tuesday, though. UW-Madison student backers of Obama are holding a rally at 2:30 p.m. by the fountain on Library Mall, from which they will subsequently march up State Street to join the main event at the Capitol.
Several other voter registration and early voting drives will be held around town on Tuesday. These include events at:
- Reindahl Park near East Town Mall from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (More info here.)
- The MATC Truax Campus near the airport from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (More info here.)
- Taste of Asia restaurant on East Washington Avenue all day, with a focus on Hmong voters in Madison and Sun Prairie. (More info here).
- The Allied Drive neighborhood near the Boys & Girls Club center from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. (More info here.)
- The Obama campaign office in Middleton at 6716 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., for voters in Middleton, Madison, Westport, Waunakee, Springfield, Town Of Middleton, Cross Plains, Mazomanie, Black Earth, Vermont, Berry, Mt. Horeb, and Blue Mounds. (More info here.)
Another early pair of early voting events will be held on Wednesday at the Obama campaign office in Sun Prairie (with more info available here and here). First time registrants or voters residing at a new address are required to bring their Wisconsin drivers license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number, with no proof of residence required until after October 15.
This early voting campaign has been in the works since the beginning of the month. Immediately before taking the stage at a campaign rally in La Crosse on October 1, Obama recorded a video message for supporters about voting in Wisconsin.
"You can go do it today," he declared. "Just go to your clerk's office and you can vote today, even if you've never voted before, even if you've never registered before."
Two follow-up videos were released by the campaign last Monday. "Did you know in Wisconsin you can actually vote early before Election Day?" said actor Adam Brody in a clip. "It's called in person absentee voting and it's simpler than it sounds. All you have to go is in-person to your local city clerk's office and fill out an absentee ballot. You can even register on the same day, and it's one simple way that we can make sure that this election changes the world." Another video recorded by actress Joy Bryant covered Wisconsin voting rules, meanwhile. All three clips encouraged supporters of the Democratic candidate to learn how to register, and vote early and absentee in their states at VoteForChange.com.
Early voting is also a priority for John McCain's bid for the presidency, with his campaign and the Republican party already sending tens of thousands of postcards to Wisconsin voters, encouraging potential supporters to cast their votes early. When it comes to warm bodies getting out this vote, though, things are a little more quiescent, at least when it comes to the public events listed online. As of Monday afternoon, the McCain campaign did not list anything within a 10- or 25-mile radius of Madison, though a 100-mile range did uncover a few events. More info about upcoming Obama campaign events around Madison, meanwhile, can be found here.