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Wisconsin's next election is Aug. 13. It's the primary election for dozens of Wisconsin legislative seats, and it will include two constitutional amendment ballot questions. Here's a guide to help people vote in Wisconsin.

How to register to vote in Wisconsin if you’re a new resident or will be out of state

Element 5 Digital

Editor's Note: This story was originally published March 11, 2024.

Whether it’s by mail, online or in-person, there are many ways for first-time voters and new residents to register to vote ahead of Wisconsin's next election — which is Aug. 13.

You can register to vote by mail or online by July 24for the Aug. 13 election. If you're not able to do that, people can register to vote at their municipal clerk's office by Aug. 9, or at the voting booth on election day.

“Registering [to vote] ahead of time just saves you some time on election day,” says Claire Woodall, the former executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission. “So you'll get in the line for registered voters, and just have a faster check-in process — there won't be any paperwork to fill out on election day.”

What do I need to register to vote? 

Woodall says the voter registration process is the same whether you're a first-time voter, a new Wisconsin voter, your name or address has changed since you’ve last registered or if you haven’t voted in the past four years.

All voters must provide a proof of residence document when registering to vote by mail, in-person in the clerk’s office or at the polls on election day. Examples of proof of residence documents include a current Wisconsin driver's license or state ID, a utility bill, a paystub or a bank statement. Woodall says showing an electronic form of proof of address is acceptable.

To register to vote online, a person's address and name must be current with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Addresses can be updated for free on the DMV’s website. Name changes cannot be completed online — that must be done in person at a DMV.

If everything is up to date, the next step is to go to the MyVote Wisconsin website to complete the registration process.

To register to vote by mail, a voter registration application (Milwaukee's application is here) along with proof of residence must be sent to the municipal clerk.

Can I use my driver’s license from another state to register to vote? 

Woodall says that using an out-of-state ID to register to vote is not a valid proof of address because it likely won’t have your current Wisconsin address on it.

She says Wisconsin law also states that people cannot use an out-of-state ID to vote.

Acceptable photo IDs include a Wisconsin state ID or driver's license, a U.S. passport, or a student voter ID from your college or university.

If your ID doesn't have your current address, you will need to bring documentation to show you live where you say you live — something like a utility bill.

If you go to vote and don't have an acceptable ID, you can cast a provisional ballot. You will then need to bring a valid ID to your clerk's office for your ballot to be counted.

What if I want to vote but I’ll be out of the state? 

Wisconsin is among 28 states that offer “no-excuse” absentee voting, which means any voter can request and cast an absentee ballot no excuse or reason necessary.

So whether you’re a student attending college out of state, someone away for business or someone who wants to vote in the convenience of your home, you can apply for an absentee ballot after registering to vote.

How does absentee voting work?  

A person must be registered to vote to request an absentee ballot by mail. Once registered, a person can request their ballot online or by mail.

In the City of Milwaukee, here's how to request an absentee ballot by mail: Provide a copy of a photo ID either digitally or by mail and return the Application For an Absentee Ballot by email to absenteeballot@milwaukee.gov or by mail to the Milwaukee Election Commission, 200 E. Wells Street, Room 501, Milwaukee, WI 53202.

Request a ballot as early as possible. The U.S. Postal Service recommends mailing the ballot at least a week before the election.

In Milwaukee, absentee ballots can be returned at early voting locations during early voting.

Voters must return their own ballot unless they need assistance due to a disability.

A Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling barred use of absentee ballot drop boxes, unless placed in election offices. Voters wishing to return ballots in-person should do so at an early voting site.

Absentee ballots include the requirement for a witness signature from a U.S. citizen 18 years or older. The witness must print their name, sign their name and provide their complete address on the certificate envelope.

If you don't have a witness, you can bring your blank ballot to any of the early voting locations in the city of Milwaukee to fill it out.

Important dates for absentee voting in Wisconsin's Aug. 13 election:

  • Aug. 8: Last day to request an absentee ballot. Applications for absentee ballots must be received no later than 5 p.m. Waiting until this day doesn't guarantee an absentee ballot will arrive with enough time to return it by election day. 
  • Aug. 13: Election day. Ballot must be received by municipal clerk no later than 8 p.m.
Your feedback will help inform our election coverage.

Xcaret is a WUWM producer for Lake Effect.
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