Milwaukee, the biggest Democratic strong-hold in a key swing state, is making it easier to vote — a change that could have big implications for upcoming elections, as well as setting up a battle with state Republicans over voting access.
Milwaukee will have eight early voting sites in 2018, compared to just three last year, officials announced Wednesday. That could lead to higher voting rates in the heavily Democratic city, where turnout lagged last year.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, and Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, both face re-election fights next year. And Wisconsin again figures to be pivotal in the 2020 presidential race.
“We wanted to have a united voice in saying expanding that access throughout the city is something that we are going to fight for, and it’s something that the citizens of the city of Milwaukee can use to help leverage the needs that they have in this city,” said Ashanti Hamilton, the president of the city council. “We want the voices of the City of Milwaukee to be heard throughout this state, as well as throughout this country.”
The move could lead to a major new fight over voting access in Wisconsin. The state cut early voting in 2014, but a federal judge reversed most of those cuts, finding that they discriminated against racial minorities. GOP state lawmakers said during last year’s early voting period that they may try to again restrict how much early voting cities and counties can offer.
Early voting has become increasingly popular over the last decade, especially among Democrats. Last year, Milwaukee saw a 43 percent increase in early voting compared to 2012.
But overall voting in Milwaukee was down by 41,000 votes, helping Donald Trump to pull off a surprising and narrow victory in Wisconsin. Restrictive GOP-backed voting rules, including a strict voter ID law, may well have made the difference.