Updated Sept. 18 at 12:37 p.m. CT
Wisconsin is a pivotal battleground state in the 2020 race for the White House. In addition to voting for president, Wisconsinites will be electing key state positions — all during the coronavirus pandemic.
Neil Albrecht, former executive director of the city of Milwaukee Election Commission, and many other election officials say mail-in voting is currently the safest way to vote in the Nov. 3 election. But there are other options too, so WUWM asked him to break down the basics of voting in Wisconsin and specifically Milwaukee.
Who can vote in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Elections Commission has this quick fact-sheet on voter eligibility. Some big requirements are that:
- you're 18 by Election Day
- you're a U.S. citizen
- you're not serving probation or parole for a felony conviction
- you've lived at your current address for more than 28 days prior to the election
To vote in a new district, you must have lived there for 28 days. That's due to a recent court decision. Though, Albrecht says you can still vote at your old address.
How to register to vote in Milwaukee
You can register to vote online, by mail, or in person. You can vote in person at your voting location, at select Milwaukee Public Library locations or in the Milwaukee Election Commission office at 200 E. Wells St., Room 501.
To register to vote in the state of Wisconsin, you must provide a document proving your residence. This could be (see a full list here):
- a valid driver’s license
- a utility bill
- a lease
- an affidavit from a homeless shelter
"[MyVote.wi.gov] is a terrific site to voters who really want to be informed in terms of voting options, how to register, how to request an absentee ballot, and then how to track your ballot," he says.
Wisconsin has same-day registration, which means if you're voting in person either early or on Election Day, you can register and then vote right afterward.
How to vote absentee by mail in Milwaukee
Mail-in absentee voting is the safest way to vote and the best way to lower your risk of spreading COVID-19.
"We're very fortunate in the state of Wisconsin that anyone can request a by-mail absentee ballot. We are in what's called a 'no excuse state' for absentee voting, as long as they are eligible to vote and as long as they are registered to vote at their current address [you can request a by-mail absentee ballot,]" says Albrecht.
Any registered voter in the state of Wisconsin can request an absentee ballot before the Thursday before the election. For the Nov. 3 election, that would be Oct. 29. But Albrecht advises you to request your ballot as early as possible to avoid any possible delays.
When you request your ballot, you need to prove your identity with an ID card from the acceptable list of IDs. This could include a valid driver’s license, a passport, or a specific voting ID issued by a Wisconsin university or college.
Absentee ballots also require a witness signature — from an adult U.S. citizen who's not a political candidate. This could include a family member, roommate, library staff member, or postal worker.
How to vote early in-person in Milwaukee
In-person absentee voting starts two weeks before Election Day. It's just like voting in person on Election Day except you get to choose which day you vote.
When you go to vote, you need to prove your identity with an ID card from the acceptable list of IDs. This could include a valid driver’s license, a passport, or a specific voting ID issued by a Wisconsin university or college.
How to vote on Election Day in Milwaukee
If you plan to vote in person on Election Day, make sure you head to the right voting location. You can check if your voting location has changed here.
The city of Milwaukee had 171 polling places open for the August election and aims for the same amount in November. But due to COVID-19, the city could limit or change them close to the election if there's a health concern or a shortage of poll workers.
"This is obviously an unusual and unprecedented time with being in a pandemic," says Albrecht. "Think in advance, prepare for voting, whether you want to vote by mail absentee, whether you want to early vote or go to your polling place on Election Day, just think about how and when you're going to be doing it to make sure that your votes are counted in these very important elections."
Editor's note: In an earlier version, Neil Albrecht said to vote in a new district for the Aug. 11 primary, you have to live there for 10 days. But due to a recent court decision, you have to live in a district for 28 days — even for August. The story and audio files have been updated.