“You know, I have never voted before, but this year I am going to figure out how to do it,” the thirty-something business owner told me in a voice so low I could hardly hear it.
We worked together on a state issue that affected her business. Through our effort to resolve the issue she saw the connection between what happened in her business and what happened in state government.
Voting is a right, privilege and responsibility in our democracy. Election Day is Tuesday November 2nd and every eligible voter should exercise their right.
The League of Women Voters in Wisconsin reminds us that to be eligible to vote you must be 18 years old and a citizen of the United States. You must have lived in Wisconsin at least ten days prior to Election Day. If you moved within the state less than ten days prior to Election Day, you may vote in your former home ward either by absentee or in person.
Federal law requires you to be registered to vote before you vote. But Wisconsin law makes registration easy. There are three ways to register: by mail at least twenty days before an election; in person at the municipal or town clerk’s location by 5:00 pm the day before an election or at the polls on Election Day.
Because Wisconsin law allows voters to register on Election Day not being registered should not keep you from voting.
Proof of residence is required for registration. This means if you are not registered, or have not voted in the past four years, you should take verification of your residence. This can include a driver’s license or official photo ID but can also include a utility statement, property tax receipt, lease or other official documents that clearly shows your name and residence. You can also come to the polls with a qualified voter from your municipality who can serve as your witness.
Military personnel may use their previous Wisconsin address and are not required to register to vote.
If you are not sure of your polling location you should contact your county, municipal or town clerk. You can also find the poll location and address on the Government Accountability Board Website at https://vpa.wi.gov/ The website also has answers to questions about absentee voting and oversees military voting. You can find out who is on the ballot and check your registration status.
Polling places must be handicapped accessible. If it is not, a poll worker will bring the ballot curbside to the voter. If you are disabled, have trouble reading, including problems reading English, you may request someone to assist you while you vote. Tell the person who gives you your ballot that you need help. The person you choose to help you may not be your employer or a union representative but could be a friend or family member.
On Election Day polls are open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm. Instructions to vote are printed on the voting machines and are available from the helpful poll workers. Sample ballots are printed in most of our local newspapers. In some municipalities there are active write-in candidates. A write-in candidate may be entered in any race.
If you are unavailable to vote on Election Day or simply find it more convenient to vote early, you may vote absentee. In Wisconsin “early voting” is exactly the same as absentee voting and you are not required to explain why you are voting absentee. The deadline for voting absentee at your local clerk’s office (or home in the rural areas) is 5:00 pm the day before Election Day. The deadline for voting by mail has already passed.
State election officials estimate only half of Wisconsin’s eligible voters will go to the polls. Many races this year are “too close to call”. Every voter’s voice will count. Make sure your voice is heard. Make sure you vote!