Voting information

Court decisions issued in 2016 (being appealed) affect rules in place for the February 21, 2017, spring primary election. The information below reflects Judge Peterson's July 29th decision, his stay of one provision on August 12, and the 7th Circuit Court's denial of motions for emergency hearing of appeals. This page will be updated if court action changes them.

The following topics are covered:

  • Voting on Election Day
  • Voting Absentee in Person
  • Voting Absentee by Mail
  • FAQ
    • Who Can Vote?
    • What If You Don’t Have Voter ID?
    • Where Do You Vote?
    • What If You Can’t Get to the Polling Place on Election Day?
    • What If You Are in the Hospital?
  • Voter Registration
  • Proof of Residence

VOTING ON ELECTION DAY

     The next election in Wisconsin is the Spring Primary on February 21, 2017. Polls open at 7am and close at 8pm.

     Voters must be registered to vote (see VOTER REGISTRATION, below). You may register to vote at your polling place on Election Day.

     Voters who move within 10 days before the election must vote at the poll from their previous address (in person or by requesting an absentee ballot).

     Voters must present a voter photo ID. Be sure you have an eligible ID!  More on Voter Photo ID

     Voters who do not present acceptable voter photo ID may ask to cast a provisional ballot. The ballot will be counted only if the voter presents the required ID to the municipal clerk by 4 pm on the Friday after the election.

     Voters must sign or make their mark on the poll book to obtain a ballot before voting. Voters who are unable to sign the poll book because of a disability are exempt from this requirement.

     On the ballot, voters must fill in ovals next to their chosen candidates. When finished, voters feed the ballot into the machine slot. Wait for the machine screen to display, “Thank you for voting.” See a demonstration video here.

VOTING ABSENTEE IN PERSON

     You may vote by in-person absentee ballot before the election. Each municipal clerk determines when and where they will allow this “early voting.” Some have extended hours for voting. Some have voting at additional sites besides the clerk’s office.

[Weekend early voting was eliminated in 2013 by Act 146 but is permitted by a court ruling. This ruling is being appealed.]

VOTING ABSENTEE BY MAIL

     Request a mailed absentee ballot from your city, town, or village clerk in writing by mail, fax, or e-mail. The request must be made no later than 5pm on the Thursday before the election (February 16, 2017, for the spring primary) in order for an absentee ballot to be sent to you. Your request must include:

  • Your name.
  • The address where you are registered to vote.
  • The address where the ballot should be sent.
  • Your signature.
  • A photocopy of an acceptable voter photo ID (see VOTER PHOTO ID).

Voters with a Wisconsin driver license or ID card may request an absentee ballot online at MyVote.wi.gov.

Absentee ballots are mailed 3 weeks before local (spring) elections and 47 days before national (fall) elections.

Elderly or disabled voters who have requested to be on the permanent absentee ballot list must vote in each election or they will be dropped from the absentee ballot rolls. 

     Upon receiving the absentee ballot

  • Complete it.
  • Sign the certificate envelope in the presence of a witness.
  • Have a witness sign the envelope and write their address.
  • Seal the envelope.
  • Mail the completed ballot. It must arrive at the clerks office by Election Day.

If you fail to follow the directions about signature and witness or if the ballot is not delivered by Election Day, the ballot is not valid and cannot be counted. 

FAQ (answers to frequently asked questions)

Who can vote?

  • You must be a United States citizen, age 18 or older by Election Day, and have lived at your current address for at least 10 days before the election. If you move within 10 days of an election, you must vote (absentee or in person) from your previous address.
  • You must be registered to vote (see VOTER REGISTRATION, below).
  • Former felons can vote if they have completed their sentence, including probation, parole, or extended supervision by the Department of Corrections (also called being “off paper”).
  • You must have a valid voter photo ID to vote at your polling place and to obtain some absentee ballots (see VOTER PHOTO ID).

What if you don’t have voter ID?

  • If you are eligible to vote but do not have a valid voter photo ID, you may obtain a free Wisconsin ID card for voting (see VOTER PHOTO ID). 
  • If you do not bring acceptable voter photo ID to your polling place, you may ask to cast a provisional ballot. The ballot will be counted only if you present the required ID to the municipal clerk by 4 pm on the Friday after the election.

Where do you vote?

  • Your polling place is determined by the municipality of your permanent residence. For example, your mailing address may be Madison, but your municipality may be the Town of Dunn.
  • Go to MyVote.wi.gov or call your municipal clerk. MyVote is also available in Spanish.
  • Students may vote from their family home address if that is their permanent residence, or from their school residence. See VOTING ABSENTEE BY MAIL (above) if away during an election.
  • If you have lived at your current residence for less than 10 days, vote at your old address. 

What if you can’t get to the polling place on Election Day? (See VOTING ABSENTEE IN PERSON and VOTING ABSENTEE BY MAIL, above)

  • You do not need a reason for absentee voting.
  • Request a mailed absentee ballot from your city, town, or village clerk in writing by mail, fax, or e-mail, or through MyVote.wi.gov if you qualify.
  • Elderly and disabled individuals can request a permanent absentee ballot.
  • You may vote absentee in person before election day.

[Weekend early voting was eliminated in 2013 by Act 146 but is permitted by court ruling. This ruling is being appealed.]

What if you are in the hospital? (See VOTING ABSENTEE BY MAIL, above)

     Each hospitalized voter can request a ballot (in writing), and the voter may appoint an agent to pick up the ballot from the hospitalized voter’s clerk’s office. Beginning 7 days before any election, the Wisconsin Elections Commission website MyVote.wi.gov will have detailed information for hospitalized voters under the “Vote Absentee” tab. If you know you will be in the hospital, request a regular absentee ballot in advance or vote absentee in person before going to the hospital.

VOTER REGISTRATION

Voters must be registered at their current address, with their current name. If you have moved or changed your name since you last registered or voted, you must update your registration with current information.

How do you register to vote?

If it is more than 20 days before an election, registration is open; you may register to vote:

  • online at MyVote.wi.gov. Online voter registration (OVR) is available only if you have a WI Driver License or ID card. You will need to have the same address on file with the DMV and the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
  • by completing a registration form at MyVote.wi.gov, printing it, signing it, and mailing it with a copy of your proof of residence to your municipal clerk.
  • at any Madison Public Library or City of Madison office (City of Madison residents only). You must show proof of residence.
  • at your municipal clerk’s office. You must show proof of residence.

Starting 20 days before an election (from closing time February 1, 2017, through 5 pm Friday, February 17, 2017 for the spring primary election), registration is closed. You can only register in person in your city, town, or village clerk’s office (or other in-person absentee voting location, including City of Madison offices or libraries).

  • Beginning January 31, 2017, if you register at your clerk’s office or other in-person absentee voting location, you may be able to vote at the same time. Check with your municipal clerk.

From 5 pm on the Friday before an election (February 17, 2017–February 20, 2017), you may not register to vote, even at a location offering in-person absentee voting.

You may register at your polling place on Election Day

PROOF OF RESIDENCE

The paper or electronic document must include your name and current home address.

  • A current and valid WI driver’s license or WI photo ID card.
  • Any other official identification card or license issued by a Wisconsin governmental body or unit.  
  • A real estate tax bill or receipt for the current year or the year preceding the date of the election.
  • A utility bill for the period commencing not earlier than 90 days before registering.
  • A bank or credit union statement.
  • A paycheck or pay stub.
  • A check or other document issued by any government agency or public school.
  • Homeless voters can prove their voting address with an affidavit from a social service agency. The Wisconsin Elections Commission provides sample letters here.
  • A residential lease valid on date of registration (not valid if registering by mail).
  • A university or college ID card if accompanied by a fee statement for the current semester.

An example of a government document used as electronic proof of residence for UW-Madison students is at my.wisc.edu. When the student logs in, and then goes to the Student Center, the registrar provides a document that displays the student's address and can be used as proof of residence for voting. Additional examples of electronic proof of residence are available on the City of Madison Clerk's website and the Fair Elections Wisconsin website.