MILWAUKEE, WI - Preliminary and limited data samples indicate that in Wisconsin early voting has tended to increase more in Republican leaning areas than Democratic leaning areas headed into the November 6th election. Wisconsin does not track voters with partisan voter registration and all early voting reporting is done at the municipal level, making it difficult to gather broad samples of early voting data headed into the final weekend of the campaign. What the limited data does show is that early voters in traditional GOP strongholds are turning out in higher numbers than in 2008, while Democratic strongholds are turning out a statistically smaller increase.
In the City of Milwaukee, 31,974 voters cast early ballots in 2008. This year, an election official confirmed that 36,578 early ballots were cast. That means that early voting in Milwaukee in 2012 is up 17% over 2008 totals.
The heavily Republican suburban community of Brookfield, just outside Milwaukee, had 6,086 people cast early votes in 2008. This year there is a 12.6% increase in early voting with the final tally at 6,851 votes.
The liberal bastion of Madison, home to the state's second largest concentration of Democratic voters, had an early voting increase of only 8.4% this year. In 2008 a total of 17,298 voters cast early ballots in Madison. This year 18,758 have cast early ballots.
The City of Waukesha, county seat of the state's most heavily Republican county, has seen a whopping 26% increase in early voting from 2008 to 2012. During the 2008 election 6,442 voters cast early ballots in Waukesha. This year 8,119 voters cast early ballots.
Up in Green Bay, a battleground portion of the state, preliminary numbers reported by the Green Bay Press Gazette when checked against 2008 totals show significant increases in a battleground and Republican leaning area, and modest increases in another Republican leaning municipality. Early voting in Green Bay is up 22% over 2008 numbers. The City of De Pere saw a modest increase of 6.3% in early voting, and Allouez, another Republican trending area, experienced a 25% jump in early voting.
Both the Romney campaign and the Obama campaign have strongly emphasized early voting in Wisconsin. But this year represents an unprecedented focus on early voting by both a Republican presidential campaign and independent groups supporting the Republican ticket. Democrats and their vaunted ground game based on a coalition of party, community organizing, and labor groups have increased their 2008 margins, but the effort may not be able to ultimately match an enthusiasm gap that seems to be benefiting Republicans.
Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the Government Accountability Board, Wisconsin's election oversight agency, said on November 1st that early voting is "robust around the state." Agency estimates place the number of early votes and absentee ballots cast in Wisconsin in 2008 at 21% of all votes.
Early voting in Wisconsin this year ran over two work weeks and one weekend, shorter than the three week two-weekend period available in 2008.