JANESVILLE

Terry Peters hadn’t voted since 1979.

But he voted early on Wednesday afternoon, alongside his wife Anita.

The Peterses are two of the 1,194 people who already have voted in Janesville for the Nov. 6 midterm election.

Officials across Rock County say they are seeing more early voting than in prior midterms.

Terry said he voted because he is disappointed in current political leaders, including President Donald Trump.

Anita normally votes early to avoid long lines, she said. She thinks people are voting early this year because they are motivated and don’t want to miss their chances to make their voices heard.

Janesville is on track to issue 5,500 absentee ballots ahead of the Nov. 6 election. That would surpass 2014 absentee turnout by more than 1,000 ballots, Dave Godek, city clerk-treasurer, said Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, 2,994 absentee ballots were cast in the city of Janesville, which is 41 percent more than the 2,118 absentee ballots cast in the same period in 2014, Godek said.

More absentee votes were cast in 2016 because it was a presidential election, which have higher turnouts than midterm elections, Godek said.

County Clerk Lisa Tollefson said clerks across Rock County have seen more early voters than anticipated. More than 6,000 absentee ballots have been cast in county municipalities.

Tollefson said she is unsure how that number compares to the 2014 midterm election because the county has switched computer systems since then, making her unable to look up prior absentee ballot counts.

Godek believes contested races for Rock County sheriff, Rock County clerk of court and the 1st Congressional District are piquing people’s attention.

Troy Knudson, a commander in the sheriff’s office, and Capt. Jude Maurer are on the ballot for the sheriff’s race. It will be the first time Rock County has seen a new sheriff since Robert Spoden was elected in 2006.

Caledonia Democrat Randy Bryce, Janesville Republican Bryan Steil and Racine Independent Ken Yorgan are facing off for the First Congressional District seat that will be vacant after Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, retires at the end of his term. Ryan has held the seat since 1999.

Tollefson said it’s easy to request absentee ballots on MyVote.wi.gov, which she believes has driven a lot of the early-voting participation.

The county clerk also attributes more early voting to a push from interest group campaigns.

A majority of the dozen people The Gazette interviewed Wednesday said they vote early because it is more convenient and allows them to avoid lines on Election Day.

Cinder and Joe Roherty said they voted early because they will spend Election Day driving their children to the polls.

The couple have five children and a couple grandchildren old enough to vote. Cinder wants her children to vote because it is their civic duty and it is an important time in history, she said.

Absentee voting is generally a good indicator of Election Day turnout, meaning Rock County is likely to have high voter turnout Nov. 6, Godek said.

In 2016, one-third of voters voted absentee, Godek said, and if absentee voting continues to grow, Election Day turnout might decrease in the future.

Reporter - Milton, Edgerton, Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health

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