Most Madison voters who already took steps to vote by mail can expect their absentee ballots sent out by the Thursday deadline, despite a delay that pushed back the timeline for distributing those ballots locally.
“We had to cancel the absentee mailing shifts we had set up for Sunday because we had reached a standstill at that point,” City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said in an email two days after the state Supreme Court denied the Green Party's request to join the presidential slate, putting the mailings on hold as the court considered the case. “Other than that, it was incredibly frustrating to not have answers to the questions voters were asking. It also gave me four nights of insomnia."
Voters can expect to see their ballots arrive in the mail in around one week, Witzel-Behl said, and they can track their ballot's progress on My Vote Wisconsin.
While Thursday is the deadline to send out ballots to those with requests already on file — over 80,000 ballots as of Wednesday — clerks are statutorily obligated to fill new absentee ballot requests in one business day for anyone who submits an ask going forward.
Witzel-Behl said her office is receiving about 700 absentee requests per day.
“We will generate absentee labels every morning, and get the ballots in the mail that same afternoon,” she said.
How and when do I request my absentee ballot?
Absentee ballot requests can be made through My Vote Wisconsin. Voters can also mail or email the city clerk’s office a request using an absentee ballot request form. The form is not required but written requests should include the following:
- Madison address
- Address to which the ballot should be mailed
- Copy of voter ID, if not already on file in Clerk’s Office
Voters can request an absentee ballot by mail up until Oct. 29. However, the Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe advises that this deadline is “unrealistic” for voters to request an absentee ballot this late and expect to receive it in time to return it by Election Day, Nov. 3.
Witzel-Behl said it takes about a week for ballots to be mailed from the clerk’s office to the voter and vice versa.
If voters have not requested an absentee ballot via mail by Oct. 20 — when in-person absentee voting begins — Witzel-Behl recommends considering voting in-person or at the polls on Election Day.
I got an absentee ballot application in the mail. What do I do with it?
The Wisconsin Elections Commission sent more than 2.6 million registered voters absentee ballot application materials earlier this month.
The mailers, which were distributed to individuals who are registered to vote but did not have an absentee ballot request on file as of June, also shared details about people’s other options for casting ballots, including early in-person and at the polls on Election Day.
That means if someone made an absentee ballot request after June, they would still get the mailer, but Wolfe noted in a recent news conference that didn’t mean their request wasn’t logged or processed, or that they had to submit a new one.
“The fact that you received this mail doesn't mean your request isn’t good,” she said. “It’s just again because the data was pulled in June to provide voters with this informational mailer that’s not connected directly to their voter record.”
Voters can double check the status of their absentee ballot request (and whether they had submitted one previously) by going to MyVote.wi.gov.
If a voter chooses to return the absentee ballot request form to the WEC, staff there will enter the data, but it will be up to the voter’s local clerk to ultimately approve the request and issue the ballot.
The mailers are not forwarded, so if a voter moved after June, they may not see one delivered to them at their new address.
How do I check if I’m registered to vote? How do I know what’s on the ballot?
To confirm the status of voter registration, voters can check My Vote Wisconsin using their name and date of birth. The online tool allows voters to view a list of previous elections they voted in, update name and address, request and track an absentee ballot and find their elected officials.
The same tool can be used to find out what will be on the ballot. Voters can search by their street address to see who is on the ballot and what voting ward they’re in.
While Oct. 14 is the last day voters can register to vote by mail and online, individuals can register if they cast ballots via the in-person absentee process or on Election Day, as the state allows same-day voter registration.
“We would recommend that voters make sure their registration is up-to-date now, so they have more options available if they end up needing to quarantine or isolate once registration has closed on October 14,” Witzel-Behl said in an email.
Oct. 30 is the final day to register to vote at the city clerk’s office.
Some third-party groups send out mass mailings or texts about voter registrations, but receiving one may not necessarily mean a voter needs to register. Some groups may have outdated or inaccurate information. For more information on voter registration, check out this guide from the city clerk’s office.
What voter ID do I need?
While a recent court ruling narrowed in-person absentee voting opportunities and changed voter residency requirements, the decision upheld allowing college students to use expired student IDs to vote.
That’s just one of the acceptable forms of ID to vote. While there is no separate “voter ID” card, as state agency officials have warned previously, there are many forms of identification that voters can show at the polls. That includes, but is not limited to:
- A Wisconsin Department of Transportation-issued driver's license (note that a REAL ID card, which has a star in the right-hand corner, is NOT required for voting)
- A Wisconsin DOT-issued identification card
- A military ID card
- A U.S. passport
- An identification card issued by a federally recognized Native American tribe in Wisconsin
Voters can see the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s website, bringit.wi.gov, for more information.
When will my absentee ballot be mailed to me?
The deadline for Wisconsin’s city, village and town clerks to mail absentee ballots for Nov. 3 registered voters with requests on file is Sept. 17. The clerk’s office will continue to mail ballots daily, though it is best to request an absentee ballot ahead of Oct. 20 to allow ample time for it to be sent out and returned.
Voters can track the progress of their ballot on My Vote Wisconsin.
How do I fill out my absentee ballot?
Voters will receive a ballot, instructions and a postage-paid ballot envelope from the local clerk’s office.
Before filling out the ballot, voters should secure a witness who is a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old. Witnesses can observe from a distance.
Voters should use black or blue ink on the ballot, which could be printed on both sides. If voters make a mistake, they should contact their local clerk’s office, which could issue a replacement ballot.
Once the ballot is complete, voters should fill out the certification section on the envelope. Both the voter and witness must sign this section. Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
How and when do I send my absentee ballot back?
For voters mailing in their absentee ballots, the recommended practical deadline is to plan on mailing them by Oct. 27, however, earlier is better. The U.S. Postal Service recommends allowing one week for a completed absentee ballot to be delivered to the clerk’s office.
If you’re reading this after Oct. 27, find other options for returning your ballot, including at Madison’s absentee ballot drop-off boxes, an in-person voting site through Nov. 1, at the city clerk’s office through Nov. 2 at 4:30 p.m. and at your polling place on Election Day by 8 p.m.
Can I avoid using the U.S. Postal Service?
Yes. On Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, over 1,000 poll workers will be stationed at 206 park facilities to accept absentee ballots, serve as witnesses and register voters at Democracy in the Park events.
The events will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In the case of inclement weather, the events will be held Sept. 27 and Oct. 4 instead.
“We're hoping that Democracy in the Park will give voters peace of mind,” Witzel-Behl said. “Voters will be able to verify with the poll workers at their neighborhood park that their absentee envelope is complete. They will also know that their ballot is secure in the clerk's office, ready to be counted at the polls on Election Day.”
Also, the city will begin installing 14 drop boxes across the city starting in early October, facilitating early, in-person absentee voting starting Oct. 20 and administering in-person voting on Nov. 3 — Election Day.
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