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Politics & Government

GAB: What Wisconsin Voters Should Know for Election Day

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The polls will be swarming with people on Tuesday as voters cast their ballots in the presidential election. Lately, poll watchers and observers have also become a fixture at polling places.

To limit any confusion at the polls, the Government Accountability Board created a list of 10 things Wisconsin voters should know. Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, went over some of the list’s highlights with WUWM’s Ann-Elise Henzl.
1. Know where to vote and whether you are currently registered.

Visit the My Vote Wisconsin website to learn your polling place and find out your registration status. If you have not voted since the last presidential election in 2008, your polling place may have changed.

Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, adds that, "The My Vote Wisconsin website also has sample ballots so voters can familiarize themselves with their choices before they arrive in the voting booth. People who do not have internet access can check their status with their municipal clerk’s office."

2. You can register at your polling place on Election Day.

If you are not registered, don’t panic. Wisconsin has had registration at the polls since 1976.

To register on Election Day, Wisconsin voters must provide a proof of residence document. It can be a driver license or state ID card with the voter’s current address. It can also be a current utility bill, lease, university ID card or other official document showing the voter’s name and current address. View a list of acceptable documents. You must be a resident of your ward for 28 consecutive days to register, but the document does not need to be 28 days old. Voters who have a valid Wisconsin driver license will be required to use their license number to complete the registration form. Otherwise, they may use a state ID card number or last four digits of their Social Security number.

3. A photo ID is not required to receive a ballot.

The state’s voter photo ID law is currently on hold in the courts. Registered voters are required to sign their name on the poll list and provide their name and address to receive a ballot.

4. Know what to do if you witness problems at the polling place.

“If you see voter fraud, voter intimidation, electioneering or misconduct by election officials, your first point of contact should be the Chief Election Inspector at the polling place,” said Elections Division Administrator Nat Robinson. “Most concerns can be resolved then and there, but if that doesn’t work, contact your municipal clerk’s office or local law enforcement.”

Complaints or issues that are not resolved to the voter’s satisfaction should be reported to the G.A.B. - online or call 1-866-VOTE-WIS. Phones will be answered from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Election Day.

5. Election observers must follow the rules.

Election observers are welcome at every polling place, but they must obey the instructions of the chief election inspector, and may not interact with voters. Only Wisconsin electors may challenge another voter’s eligibility, and there are specific criteria and limitations on challenges. Observers who disobey will be asked to leave, and may not observe at other polling places on Election Day. Rules for election observers are available at the polling place and online.

6. Under state law, a voter can request up to three hours of unpaid time off to vote on Election Day.

However, the request for time off must be made in advance to give the employer time to adjust work schedules.

7. Leave political items at home.

Voters are asked not to wear political clothing or paraphernalia to the polling place on Election Day. The chief election inspector may ask voters to remove or cover up political items, or to leave the polling place if they are judged to be electioneering or creating a disturbance.

8. Get in line before the polls close.

Voters standing in line waiting to vote when the polling place closes at 8 p.m. on Election Day will be permitted to vote.

9. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day.

If you had an absentee ballot mailed to you, it must be postmarked by Election Day and must be received in your municipal clerk’s office by 4 p.m. the Friday after the election in order to be counted..

10. No straight-party voting.

In 2011, the Legislature changed the law to eliminate straight-party voting in Wisconsin. That means voters can no longer make one mark on the ballot to cast votes for every candidate belonging to a particular party. Voters must vote for candidates for each office on the ballot separately.