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Early voters flock to cast ballots in Wisconsin
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MILWAUKEE (AP) - Elections officials are reporting strong interest in early voting ahead of Wisconsin's primary Tuesday.

Early voter turnout is up more than 400 percent over previous presidential primaries in 2008 and 2012, Milwaukee Election Commis-sion executive director Neil Albrecht told WTMJ-AM.

"It reflects a national trend, really, where people are just gaining greater peace of mind around casting their ballots early in elections," Albrecht said.

Wisconsin election officials have issued at least 77,600 more absentee ballots for Tuesday's presidential primary than they did in the 2012 primary. Officials had issued 172,194 absentee ballots as of Thursday morning, compared with 94,589 absentee ballots issued in the April 2012 presidential primary, according to the Government Accountability Board.

Wisconsin's stature in Republican politics and its position on the primary calendar have elevated its importance. Early voting started two weeks ago and ends Friday.

In Monroe, the number of early voters has nearly doubled from the 2015 spring turnout. City Clerk Carol Stamm said the city has seen a "steady stream of walk-ins for the last two weeks," which has contributed to 380 total ballots before the official election on Tuesday. Absentee voters have been split between in-person ballots cast and those sent through the mail.

"It's higher than a normal spring election," Stamm said. "Mostly because of the judges race and it's a presidential primary, and we have the mayors race as well. There's a lot on the ballot."

In Appleton, the line outside the city clerk's office has been steady with voters who don't want to wait until Tuesday to cast their ballot. This year's number of early voters in Appleton is double the number in the last presidential primary in 2012, City Clerk Cami Lynch told WBAY-TV.

"I think people are excited for change. I think either side of the fence, I mean there's two sides to it, and I think both sides are looking for change and I think no matter what happens, in the election or what the outcome is, we're going to have some changes in this country," said William Baxter of Appleton.

Other cities, including Neenah, have used up all their ballots set aside for early voting.

Neenah City Clerk Patty Sturn said she's had a lot of new voters register. She said the political ads and debates have drawn increased interest from new voters.

A high voter turnout of 50 to 60 percent is expected on election day, according to Albrecht.

"There are no other states with primaries occurring at the same time, so we've had a lot of candidate presence in the state and of course, that boosts awareness of early voting

and the April 5th election," he said.

The Government Account-ability Board estimates that about 1.75 million Wisconsin residents, or 40 percent of eligible voters, will vote in Tuesday's elections. That's the most voters since 1980 for an April election.