With a stubbornly persistent virus making face-to-face interaction potentially dangerous and hampering efforts to recruit poll workers, more than 1 million of Wisconsin’s 3.5 million registered voters have already requested absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election, and election officials are predicting some 80% of voters could ultimately vote absentee.
That’s significantly more than in a non-pandemic presidential election year, when the percentage of absentee voters can be in the single digits, and it means that for a lot of people, 2020 will be their first experience with voting absentee.
Municipal clerks were required by law to begin sending out absentee ballots Thursday to those who already requested them, and for those who still haven’t requested them but want to, there are four ways to do it:
People planning to vote absentee for the first time from their current addresses will need to provide a copy of a qualifying photo ID, in line with the state’s photo ID law. The MyVote website prompts voters to upload a photo of their ID, while requests by mail will require a paper copy of the ID and email requests an image of the ID in the body of the email or attached to the email.
While the April 7 spring election and presidential primary and Aug. 11 primary elections gave new absentee voters a taste of the process, presidential elections typically see much higher turnout. Turnout for the April election was about 34%, for example, while turnout for presidential elections has been running about twice that.
The Madison City Clerk’s Office is urging voters to request absentee ballots sooner rather than later, but the deadline for making a request is 5 p.m. on Oct. 29, the Thursday before the Nov. 3 election. The office is also promoting “Mail It Back Monday” on Oct. 19 to provide enough time for the ballot to make its way through the U.S Postal Service. The city is also staffing dozens of ballot drop-off sites over the next six weeks. A full list with times and dates they’re open can be found at go.madison.com/ballot-dropoff-sites.
Madison and state officials point to a couple of common reasons absentee ballots are rejected: They arrive too late or don’t have required documentation.
Madison clerk’s office employee Maggie McClain said to make sure the certificate envelope that comes with the ballot is completely filled out.
“A complete certificate envelope will have the voter’s signature, the witness signature and the witness address,” she said. “If any of those pieces are missing, the absentee ballot would be rejected at the polls on Election Day.”
Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney said the other major problem in the April election was that some ballots arrived after the polls closed on Election Day at 8 p.m.
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“A complete certificate envelope will have the voter’s signature, the witness signature and the witness address. If any of those pieces are missing, the absentee ballot would be rejected at the polls on Election Day.” Maggie McClain, Madison City Clerk’s Office
"A complete certificate envelope will have the voter’s signature, the witness signature and the witness address. If any of those pieces are missing, the absentee ballot would be rejected at the polls on Election Day."
Maggie McClain, Madison City Clerk's Office
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