How to register to vote and get an absentee ballot in Wisconsin

Wisconsinites are expected to use mail voting in record numbers this fall, just as they did in the April election for state Supreme Court because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s how to register to vote and cast a ballot.  

When are the upcoming elections? 

The primary for legislative and congressional races is Aug. 11 and the general election is Nov. 3. The Aug. 11 primaries are held in races that have more than one Republican or more than one Democrat running in order to narrow the races to head-to-head matchups for Nov. 3. 

Voters can see what’s on their ballot for their area by going to myvote.wi.gov

How do I register to vote?

Wisconsinites can register to vote at myvote.wi.gov, by mail, in a clerk’s office or at the polls.

They will need proof of residence, such as a driver’s license, utility bill, pay stub or other document. They will also have to provide their Wisconsin driver’s license number, if they have one, or the last four digits of their Social Security number if they don’t have a license.

The deadline for registering by mail or through myvote.wi.gov is July 22 for the Aug. 11 primary and Oct. 14 for the Nov. 3 general election. The deadline for registering in a clerk’s office is Aug. 7 for the Aug. 11 primary and Oct. 30 for Nov. 3.

Those who miss those deadlines can register at the polls on election day. 

What are my options for voting? 

There are three ways to vote in Wisconsin — at the polls on election day, at an early voting site ahead of the election and by mail. 

Voters can find their early and election-day voting sites are at myvote.wi.gov

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 August and November elections.

Clerks recommend requesting absentee ballots as soon as possible to ensure they have time to get to voters and back to the clerk’s office.

RELATED:Absentee ballots didn’t get counted because of late delivery, misdelivery and bad postmarks, post office says

How do I get an absentee ballot?

Voters can request absentee ballots online, by mail or in person. They must request the ballot by 5 p.m. on the Thursday before the election — but election clerks suggest requesting them as early as possible. The U.S. Postal Service says the delivery of mail can take up to a week in each direction. 

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

By mail or in person: Voters can visit their clerk in person or mail in an application to receive an absentee ballot. A directory of clerks is available at https://elections.wi.gov/clerks/directory.

When do absentee ballots have to be returned?

To be counted, completed absentee ballots must be in the hands of clerks by 8 p.m. on election day. That means absentee ballots that are being mailed in must be provided to the post office at least a few days before then.

How does the voter ID law work?

Most voters must provide a copy of a photo ID to cast a ballot, whether they are voting in person or by mail.

In-person voters can show their ID at the polls. Absentee voters can send their clerk a copy of their ID, submit a photo of it through myvote.wi.gov or show it in person at a clerk’s office.

Once absentee voters have provided an ID 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.

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?

Yes. 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 can I vote early in person?

Voters can cast ballots in their clerk’s office before election day. Some communities, including Milwaukee and Madison, also allow people to vote early at other locations.

Early voting begins two weeks before election day and ends on the Sunday before election day. Local officials decide the exact times for early voting, and not all communities allow it every day during the early-voting period. 

Could the voting rules change? 

Yes. The rules for the April election changed several times because of court orders. Courts changed the deadlines for registering to vote and returning absentee ballots in that election.

Several lawsuits over the November election are underway and the rules and deadlines could change for that election, depending on what the courts say. This story will be updated if that happens.

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