Wisconsin Voter FAQs
Absentee ballot, vote by mail, early voting—it’s all the same
What is an absentee ballot?
An absentee ballot is the printed ballot marked by an absent voter, sealed in a special envelope, and given or mailed to the municipal clerk. The municipal clerk ensures that each absentee ballot that is returned in a timely manner gets to the right polling place on election day. If accepted, the absentee ballot is counted as if the voter had cast the ballot in person.
Election officials urge voters to submit ballots as soon as possible.
Who can request and receive an absentee ballot?
Most registered Wisconsin voters can vote absentee by mail. A qualified voter is:
- A U.S. citizen
- 18 years of age or older
- Has resided in their voting district for at least 28 days
Military and overseas voters
Military and permanent overseas voters have special rules and additional options for voting. If you are a military or overseas voter, you are eligible to receive your absentee ballot electronically, including online through MyVote Wisconsin.
How does a voter request an absentee ballot?
Request your absentee ballot from the municipal clerk in writing as soon as possible. The practical deadline for mailing completed ballots is Oct. 27. After the 27th, the Wisconsin Elections Commission recommends using alternative methods to return ballots.
- If you are not registered or your name or address has changed, you will need to register or update your registration before requesting an absentee ballot.
- MyVote Wisconsin is fastest way to request an absentee ballot. The first step will be checking to see if you are already registered to vote.
- You may send the EL-121 Absentee Ballot Request by mail. See form in Spanish and Hmong.
- You will need to provide a copy of your acceptable photo ID with your absentee ballot request. Check Bring It to the Ballot to see if you have acceptable photo ID for voting. If you don’t have any of these IDs, learn how to get a free state ID.
I’ve changed my mind about using my absentee ballot. Can I still vote early at my municipal clerk’s office OR in person at the polls on Election Day?
Yes, registered voters can still vote in person as long as they have NOT already submitted an absentee ballot.
- Do not give your unused ballot to someone else.
- If voting early in person at your municipal clerk’s office, check with your municipal clerk for dates and office hours. Check 5 ways to return absentee ballots FAQ for more details about in-person voting at the clerk’s office.
- If voting at the polls on Election Day, confirm your polling place. Wear a mask and bring your photo ID. Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Tues. Nov. 3.
Who qualifies as a witness on my absentee ballot?
All absentee voters must obtain a witness signature and address on the absentee certificate envelope.
- A witness must be a U.S. Citizen who is 18 years or older. They can be a neighbor, spouse, or family member of the voter.
- If a voter is struggling to get a witness, the voter may ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to witness their ballot through a window, from a distance, or on video chat. Just be sure to have your witness sign and write their address on the return envelope.
- A voter can also ask a store clerk, a mail carrier, or even someone at a drive-through.
- Candidates on the ballot cannot serve as witnesses.
Make your vote count by following the ballot instructions. Your ballot will NOT be counted if missing signatures or addresses.
- Use blue or black pen to complete your ballot.
- Review your name and address on the return envelope.
- Put your ballot in the return envelope. (Insert only one ballot per envelope.)
- Sign and date the certificate on the return envelope.
- Have your witness sign and write their complete address on the return envelope. Ballot will not be counted if missing any part of the address (house number, street name, municipality).
- Seal your ballot and return it to your clerk as soon as possible.
5 ways to return absentee ballots
Absentee ballots must be received by Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 before 8 p.m. Return your ballot as soon as possible.
In-person absentee voting
Oct. 20, 2020 is the first day that municipal clerks may allow voters to cast absentee ballots in their office or a satellite location. Check with your clerk for start dates, end dates, and office hours.
- Option 1: You do not have an absentee ballot and you want to vote at the clerk’s office. Bring your photo ID in order to vote early at the clerk’s office. The clerk will give you a ballot and witness your vote.
- Option 2: You already have an absentee ballot and want to use the county clerk as a witness. You do not need a photo ID because you already showed it to get your ballot. Fill out your absentee ballot and envelope directly in front of the clerk, who will sign as your witness.
- Option 3: Your absentee ballot is sealed, signed, and already-witnessed and you want to drop it off at the clerk’s office. You do not need a photo ID to drop off a sealed ballot. You may have a trusted person drop off your ballot for you.
Depending on your municipality, voters can return absentee ballots to secured drop boxes. Check with your municipal clerk to find locations in your community.
U.S. Postal Service
The Wisconsin Election Commission urges voters to mail their ballots as soon as possible in order to be counted. After Oct. 27, the WEC recommends voters use drop boxes and in-person absentee voting. See WEC’s full list of Nov. 2020 voting deadlines.
Polling place on Election Day
Most voters may also return absentee ballots to their polling place by 8 p.m. on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020), but there are some exceptions. See central count municipalities below. Find your polling place here.
You do not need your photo ID to drop off your sealed, signed, and already-witnessed ballot at your polling place. You may have a trusted person drop off your ballot for you.
Central count municipalities on Election Day
There are 35 municipalities including Milwaukee and Green Bay that count absentee ballots at a central location on Election Day. If you live in one of the 35 central count municipalities, your ballot will instruct you where to return your ballot instead of the polling place. Check with your municipal clerk for more information.
You do not need your photo ID to drop off your sealed, signed, and already-witnessed ballot at your central count location. You may have a trusted person drop off your ballot for you.
Track absentee ballots
Track your ballot on your My Voter Info page
Intelligent mail barcodes on ballot envelopes
Many of Wisconsin’s 1,850 city, village and town clerks will be using mailing labels that have a USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) to send ballots to their absentee voters. IMBs allow voters and clerks to track where a ballot is in the postal system as it travels from the clerk’s office to the voter’s home and back to the clerk’s office, just like they track packages from online retailers.
Your voter profile page tracks your ballot in six stages:
- Absentee request submitted
- Absentee request approved
- Preparing your absentee ballot
- Absentee ballot sent
- Absentee Ballot anticipated delivery
- Completed absentee ballot received
How do I know that my vote was counted?
Go to your My Voter Info page and scroll down to see your voting activity. The page displays up to 10 years of voting history with the most recent elections listed first. Click on the plus sign next to the election date you want to review. The page expands to reveal your voter participation, the voting method, polling place, and municipality.
What happens to ballots after an election?
Municipalities keep ballots for 22 months after elections.
Correct your absentee ballot
Vote early to give municipal clerks more time to catch errors
Request a new ballot
If you need a new ballot, contact your municipal clerk as soon as possible. If there’s enough time, your clerk can cancel your original ballot and give you a new one. Depending on how close you are to Oct. 29—the legal deadline for requesting absentee ballots by mail—you might need to get your new ballot in person.
Clerks will contact voters re. incomplete ballots—if there’s enough time
When a ballot is returned missing signatures or the witness address, the clerk will try to find the missing information from outside sources or contact the voter.
Return your ballot as soon as possible to give your municipal clerk enough time to correct errors. The Wisconsin Elections Commission calls Oct. 27 the practical deadline for voters to mail their mail absentee ballots to their municipal clerk’s office. After this date, the WEC recommends other options for returning the ballot.
What happens to late ballots?
If ballots arrive late or are missing required information so they are not counted, there will be a log entry on the inspector’s statement for the voter’s polling place. However, no voter participation will be recorded.
When are the elections?
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Bring it Wisconsin provides a list of upcoming elections.
Find your voting profile
MyVote Wisconsin is your official centralized resource
- My voter info (once you’re registered)
- Find my polling place
- What’s on my ballot?
- Update my name or address
- Register to vote
- Request absentee ballot
- Find my clerk
- My elected officials
- Election dates
Who are my legislators?
Enter your address in the search field (upper right-hand corner) on the Wisconsin state Legislature’s interactive map to find your representatives.
Find a complete list of your elected officials at MyVote Wisconsin, from the U.S. President to your local school board members.
Resources for voters with disabilities
Know your rights
The Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition (WDVC) is a non-partisan effort to help ensure full participation in the entire electoral process of voters with disabilities, including registering to vote, casting a vote, and accessing polling places.
Visit the Wisconsin Elections Commission site for more information and videos about your voting rights.
Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW) Hotline: 1-844-347-8683
Indefinitely confined voters
Can’t make it to the polls due to age, hospitalization or disability? You can become a permanent absentee voter by requesting an absentee ballot for all elections. Being indefinitely confined does not require permanent or total inability to travel outside of the residence.
Register to vote
Get registered or confirm that your registration is up to date as soon as possible. Deadlines depend on registration method.
What are the qualifications to vote in Wisconsin?
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Live at your current residence for at least 28 consecutive days. See list of common types of documents used to prove residency—including homeless voters.
- Voters who are homeless may use a letter from a shelter or other organization providing services to the homeless as proof of residence when registering to vote. Get a sample letter and more information for homeless voters.
- Are not currently serving a sentence including incarceration, parole, probation, or extended supervision for a felony conviction.
- Acceptable photo ID is required for in-person voting (including absentee voting in person). Check to see if you already have the right photo ID. If you don’t have any of these IDs, learn how to get a free state ID.
How do I register to vote?
Check to see if you’re already registered. Enter your name and birthdate on MyVote Wisconsin to see your status. You can also check with your municipal clerk. Your registration page also shows the address of your polling place.
If you’re not registered, do any of the following to register to vote. (Oct. 14 deadline sourced from PBS Wisconsin report: Court Reverts to Status Quo on Ballot Deadline)
- Register online at MyVote Wisconsin by Wednesday, Oct. 14.
- Register by mail by posting your EL-131 Voter Registration Application to your municipal clerk. Envelope must be postmarked by Wednesday, Oct. 14. (See forms in Spanish | Hmong)
- Register in person at your municipal clerk’s office until Fri. Oct. 30, 2020 (the Friday before Election Day). Call your clerk’s office for hours.
- Register at the polls on Election Day, Tues. Nov 3, 2020. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What do I need to include with my registration?
- Identification such as a Wisconsin Driver License, state ID number or the last four digits of your SSN.
- Proof of residence when you register to vote. There are many types of proof of residence documents include Wisconsin Driver License, state ID, or utility bill.
Photo ID for voting
Wisconsin requires an acceptable photo ID to vote.
Bring your photo ID when voting in person at the polls or at the municipal clerk’s office
Absentee voters casting a ballot in person in the municipal clerk’s office or a satellite voting location must present a photo ID just as they would if they were voting at the polls.
Photo IDs not needed when using your own absentee ballot at the municipal clerk’s office
- An ID is unnecessary because you already showed your ID to register and receive the ballot.
- Fill out your assigned absentee ballot and envelope with the clerk as your witness.
Photo IDs not needed when returning sealed ballots
You do not need your photo ID if you are dropping off completed, sealed and witnessed ballots at the municipal clerk’s office, a drop box, poll center or central count location.
- Your photo ID does not need to show a current address. Election officials will only be looking at the type of ID presented, the name and photograph on the ID, and the expiration date of the ID.
- Your Wisconsin ID or Wisconsin driver license does not need to comply with the federal Real ID Act of 2005 to vote.
- Expiration date requirements vary based on the photo ID.
- Your photo ID name does not have to match your poll registration exactly (e.g. “Johnny” vs. “John”).
College students and photo IDs
Common Cause Wisconsin outlines the three things students must do to vote in Wisconsin. Check to see if your college or university student ID is on the list of compliant to use as photo IDs to vote.