The deadline to request an absentee ballot in Wisconsin is Friday. Here’s how you do it.

MADISON – Wisconsin officials from both parties are urging people to vote early in the April 7 election as the coronavirus spreads in the state and around the country.

“The good news is that absentee voting in Wisconsin is really easy,” Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said. “I’m encouraging everybody who can vote early to ensure that your vote is counted and your voice is heard to take advantage of that.”

Dean Knudson, the Republican chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said there needs to be a “statewide push” to get people to vote early, either by mail or in person.

Live updates:  The latest on coronavirus in Wisconsin

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Who can vote absentee in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin allows people to vote absentee for any reason. As long as they’re registered to vote, they can request absentee ballots now for the April 7 presidential primary and election for state Supreme Court, Milwaukee mayor, Milwaukee County executive and other local offices.

How do I get an absentee ballot in Wisconsin?

Voters can request absentee ballots online, by email, by fax, by mail or in person. Normally, they must request the ballot by 5 p.m. on the Thursday before the election, but a federal judge extended it one day for this election, to April 3.

Request a ballot online: To request an absentee ballot online, voters can go to myvote.wi.gov and follow the prompts. The site allows them to track their ballot so they can know when the clerk has mailed it to them. 

Because of a technical issue, those requesting absentee ballots April 3 must request absentee ballots for all 2020 elections.

By email or fax: Voters can also email or fax their local clerk to request an absentee ballot. A directory of clerks is available on the Elections Commission’s website.

By mail: The deadline to request a ballot by mail has passed; mailed requests must be received by 5 p.m. on April 3.

What are the voter ID laws for absentee ballots?

Absentee voters in most cases must provide a photo ID to get a ballot. They can do this by sending their clerk a copy of their ID, submitting a photo of it through myvote.wi.gov or showing it in person.

Once they have provided it to get their first absentee ballot, they can get absentee ballots for future elections without having to show their ID again.

Acceptable IDs include Wisconsin driver’s licenses, state ID cards, military IDs, passports, tribal IDs, veterans IDs, certificates of naturalization and certain college IDs if the student also provides separate proof of enrollment.

Some absentee voters are exempt from the photo ID requirement, such as military voters, those living permanently overseas and those considered indefinitely confined, such as nursing home residents.

Do I need a witness to vote by mail?

For this election, a judge has allowed absentee ballots to be counted without a witness’ signature if the voter makes a notation that they could not find a witness despite reasonable efforts.

Usually, those who vote by mail must fill out their ballot in the presence of an adult witness. Witnesses are not supposed to view the voter’s selections but must sign a certificate and provide their address.

In most cases, the ballot will not be counted without the signature of the voter, the signature of the witness and the address of the witness.

How long do I have to get an absentee ballot?

For this election, by Friday, April 3 at 5 p.m. For most elections, the deadline is 5 p.m. on the Thursday before the election.

Online requests, emailed requests and faxes must be sent by 5 p.m. on April 3.

Mailed requests must be received by 5 p.m. on April 3.

When is my absentee ballot due, and how do I return it?

Absentee ballots must be returned to clerks by 8 p.m. on election day for most elections, but voters have until April 13 to return them for this election. That’s six days after election day.

Absentee ballots must be returned by mail or in person. They can’t be returned by email or fax.

Is there another way to vote in Wisconsin before Election Day?

Voters can also cast ballots in their clerk’s office before election day if they don’t want to go to the polls on April 7. Some communities, including Milwaukee and Madison, also allow people to vote early at other locations.

Milwaukee, however, closed its in-person early voting locations after about a week of voting out of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

Like those who vote at the polls, absentee voters in most cases must provide a photo ID to get a ballot. They can do this by sending their clerk a copy of their ID, submitting a photo of it through myvote.wi.gov or showing it in person. Once they have provided it to get their first absentee ballot, they can get absentee ballots for future elections without having to show their ID again.

What if I need to register to vote?

Wednesday, March 18, was the last day before the April 7 election to register to vote online or by mail. However, a federal judge late on March 20 reinstated online registration in response to a lawsuit by Democrats. He made it available until March 30.

People can register in their clerk’s office until April 3 and can also register at the polls on Election Day.

I registered to vote at college, but am now staying elsewhere. Where do I vote?

If the move is permanent, the voters will need to register at the new address. They can vote absentee or in-person in their new municipality.

If the move is temporary — such as for a longer-than-expected return to their parents’ address during the coronavirus outbreak — they can vote absentee from the municipality where their college is located. The clerk will send the absentee ballot to whichever address they request.  

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has more information about student voting on its website

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.

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