MADISON -- Milwaukee plans to begin offering early voting on Oct. 10 along with extended evening and weekend hours, the city's chief election officer said Thursday.
The expanded hours were made possible by a recent federal court ruling that struck down a state law that limited early voting to weekdays two weeks prior to an election. Under that law, early voting could not have begun before Oct. 24.
Since the state Justice Department abandoned any further appeals to put the ruling on hold before the Nov. 8 election, Wisconsin's two largest -- and most liberal -- cities are moving aggressively to expand voting opportunities.
Madison's city clerk plans to start offering early voting on Sept. 26. Under Albercht's plan for Milwaukee, which he said could be expanded, voters in the state's largest city could start casting ballots two weeks later.
Municipal clerks statewide can begin offering early voting dates once they have ballots in hand. By law, ballots have to be delivered to the clerks by Sept. 21, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the restriction on early voting arguing that uniform limits were needed statewide. But Democratic opponents argued the true intent was to suppress voter turnout in the liberal strongholds of Milwaukee and Madison.
In his July 29 ruling striking down the law and a host of other restrictions passed by Republicans the past five years, U.S. District Judge James Peterson said limiting early voting "intentionally discriminates on the basis of race." He also said the law "was specifically targeted to curtail voting in Milwaukee without any other legitimate purpose."
That ruling struck down a requirement that cities only have one location for early voting, so Albrecht said he plans to offer early voting locations on the north and south sides of Milwaukee the first two weeks it is available. In the final two weeks, it will be offered at the municipal building downtown.
There will be extended evening and weekend hours for both the satellite sites and the downtown location, he said.