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How Voting in Wisconsin Has Changed (And What You Should Know)

Since 2011, a number of new voting laws have been enacted by Governor Scott Walker. Before you head out to vote, here's what you should know:

Voter Registration
As of 2011, to prove residency, you need one of the following:

  • Current and valid Wisconsin driver license or identification card, any other official identification card or a license issued by a Wisconsin governmental body or unit.
  • Any identification card issued by an employer in the normal course of business and bearing a photo of the card holder, but not including a business card.
  • A real estate tax bill or receipt for the current year or the year preceding the date of the election.
  • A university, college or technical college identification card (must include photo) ONLY if the voter provides a fee receipt dated within the last 9 months or the institution provides a certified housing list to the municipal clerk.
  • A gas, electric, or telephone service statement (utility bill) for the period commencing not earlier than 90 days before Election Day. Electronic statements may be used, only if printed.
  • Bank statement, electronic statements may be used, only if printed.
  • Paycheck.
  • A check or other document issued by a unit of government.
  • An affidavit on public or private social service agency letterhead identifying a homeless voter and describing the individual’s residence for voting purposes.
  • Residential lease. (Not valid if registering by mail.)

Early Voting (not yet implemented)
Early voting will be limited to the hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday for two weeks leading up to an election.

Gov. Walker vetoed the portion of the legislation limiting early voting to 45 hours per week.

Back in 2011, state leaders reduced early voting from three weeks, including weekends, before an election to two weeks and one weekend.

Absentee Voting

  • Absentee ballots: Become available by mail  47 days  before an election. They can be cast up to 14 days before an election. This is a decrease from 30 days.
  • Absentee Voting at Residential Facilities (not yet implemented): Requires special voting deputies be present at adult family homes, community-based residential facilities, and residential care apartment complexes when there is absentee voting.

Residency Requirements

  • For Voters: In 2011, lawmakers increased the time a person needs to live in district from 10 consecutive days to 28 consecutive days in order to vote at their new polling place. If you do not meet this requirement, you can still cast your vote at your previous location.
  • For College Students: Students need an identification card issued by a university, college or technical school that contains a photograph of the voter. As well as a fee payment receipt dated no earlier than nine months before the election at which the receipt is presented. The receipt is not needed if the institution provides  a certified and current list of students who reside in student housing and who are U.S. citizens.
  • For Election Officials (not yet implemented): The residency requirement for election observers allows individuals from the county to serve, as opposed to only the municipality or ward.

Election Observers (not yet implemented)

Voter Observation:

Poll watchers are allowed to position themselves within three feet of people registering to vote or picking up ballots.

The bill requires the chief inspector and the municipal clerk to designate an observation area for election observers that is within three feet of the table at which electors announce their name and address to be issued a voter number and within three feet of the table at which a person may register to vote. The observer is not permitted to observe confidential information. The election observers are required to print his or her name and sign and date a log maintained for the polling place.

Photo ID (On hold pending judicial decision)
This law would require photo identification to vote or obtain an absentee ballot.

Signature Required to Vote
Voters must sign the poll list, supplemental list, or other separate list when voting in person at an election unless exempt due to physical disability.

Straight Party Ticket
The authority for any voter, other than those who are overseas or in the military, to vote a straight party ticket is eliminated. Under federal law, an overseas or military elector may vote a straight party ticket on a write in absentee ballot for national offices.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.