Frank Wiener of Ward 79 proudly displays his voter's sticker. He called himself 'The face of Wisconsin.'
Reports of voter turnout in Madison have been near presidential election levels for the recall election Tuesday and officials are encountering situations they've never seen before.
At the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County on Taft Street, the polling place for Ward 72 on Madison's south side, officials had registered about 25 new voters before 1 pm. Of these, one used a ballot printed in Hmong, a southeast-Asian language. Chief inspector Sadie Pearson said ballots are also offered in English and Spanish, but she has never seen a Hmong ballot actually used. Most non-native speakers bring a child or friend along to the polling place to translate, she said.
"This is such a diverse neighborhood," Pearson said of surrounding Bram's Addition. "And regardless of what people say, it's a good neighborhood."
Although ballots are offered in three languages, instructions for voting are available in English only. Pearson said voters use the diagrams printed on the instructions, but she plans to seek a solution.
She also sent several voters home to obtain correct forms of identification in order to register to vote. Another poll worker said one woman went back and forth between her home and the polls three times before finally being able to vote.
"Because of the intense passion on both sides, people are more interested than usual," co-chief inspector John Heaton said.
At the Odana Hills Golf Course clubhouse, polling place for Ward 79, there were about 60 people lined up, according to chief inspector Gary Poulson. The line remained out the door throughout the morning.
"It doesn't matter," Jack Albrechtson said. "It's too important to vote, so I'm going to wait."
Frank Wiener, also of Ward 79, said despite the line, it didn't take long to vote since there are only two races in this election.
"It was quick," Wiener said. "Like an execution."
Paulson said the ward has historically seen higher turnouts than the Wisconsin average. He predicts an 80% turnout Tuesday.
The mood outside the clubhouse was jovial as voters joked while waiting in line to cast their ballots.
"We don't let old farts like you vote," one older man said to another.
Cate Schally was in a hurry. She anxiously peered around the line to see how fast it was moving-she was almost late for her canvassing shift with Democracy for America.
"I'm doing what I can," Schally said, between bites of her bagel. "Hopefully everyone else does the same."
Ironically, Schally contemplated leaving so she could begin canvassing on time.
"What do you think, mom?" she asked. "I think you should persevere," her mom answered.
Despite high turnouts at other polling locations, Wards 58 and 59 at Memorial Union were relatively slow. Around 10 a.m., only 39 and 41 campus-area residents had cast their votes, respectively. Chief inspector Jim Fortner said this is lower than for November elections because students are on summer break.
Ward 16 on the east side celebrated its 1000th vote of the day just after 1:30 p.m. Kris Niemann, an election official, waited all day to cast that specific numbered ballot.
The election officials were chipper and joked with each other as they served a steady stream of voters. Phyllis Sticha, who has been an election official for 17 years, said she is anxious to see how the recall turns out.
Sticha said whatever the outcome, she hopes people accept it. But when asked how she would feel if the outcome isn't what she's hoping for, her eyes grew wide.
"I don't even want to think about that," she said.
Poulson said he anticipates staying at the Odana clubhouse longer than usual after the polls close. Many wards are planning on doing some recount work ahead of time, in anticipation of a close race. Additionally, Poulson said absentee ballots still need to be processed and although election officials are working on that task throughout the day, they hade barely scratched the surface earlier this afternoon.