Key Election Deadlines
October 20, 2020 – Early in-person voting begins.
October 29, 2020 at 5:00pm – Deadline for absentee ballot applications to be returned.
November 3, 2020 – The General Election
November 3, 2020 at 8:00pm – Deadline for absentee ballots to be returned.
Wisconsin permits Election Day registration for voters; therefore, there is no voter registration deadline.
Wisconsin Election Law Highlights
Wisconsin’s election laws can be found in Chapters 5 – 12 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
Wisconsin law requires voters to show photo identification when voting in person at the polls or when voting by absentee. There are some exceptions for absentee voters. If a Wisconsin voter does not have one of the acceptable forms of identification, the voter can obtain a free Wisconsin State ID Card.
Wisconsin’s April Presidential Preference Primary
In April, Wisconsin had a disastrous Presidential Primary Election marked by several failures.
Hundreds of polling locations were closed due to a lack of poll workers, resulting in tremendous lines for in-person voters at the handful of polling locations that remained open.
A political stalemate regarding how to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis led Governor Tony Evers to issue a last-minute executive order to try and postpone the election and suspend in-person voting. The order was litigated all the way up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court before being struck down on the eve of the election.
An unprecedented increase in the number of mail ballot requests overwhelmed election officials and local post offices; thousands of ballots were either never sent out or delivered.
Thousands more ballots were rejected by election officials due to simple errors on the voters’ part, like failing to meet the return deadline or the certification requirements for absentee ballots.
Wisconsin’s August Primary Election
In August, Wisconsin had a mostly successful Primary Election as a result of troubleshooting April’s pitfalls.
Governor Evers, rather than try to suspend in-person voting a second time, summoned the National Guard to satisfy a poll worker shortage, thus allowing as many polling locations to remain open as possible.
Mail ballot applications were processed well in advance of the election, allowing election officials to meet the increased demand for mail voting.
Nearly 900,000 mail ballots were returned for the Primary Election, a 12-fold increase from the number of mail ballots returned in 2016’s primary election.
Wisconsin’s November General Election
Leading up to the General Election, Wisconsin is making several changes to ensure the election runs as smoothly as possible.
This includes sending out an informational mailer to the 2.7 million registered voters in the state. The two-sided mailer will inform voters about how to vote, the need for voter ID, and voter registration on one side and will discuss how to request an absentee ballot on the other.
Absentee ballots will be given an intelligent barcode that will allow voters to track their ballots to make sure their ballots are received, processed, and counted. This will prevent ballots from being lost or misplaced to the detriment of the voter.
Jurisdictions will be ordering more absentee ballots to meet the demand for voters requesting to vote by mail and will be processing ballot requests well in advance to ensure voters have enough time to return their ballot.
Voters will now have the opportunity to include contact information in their absentee ballot applications that will allow election officials to call voters in the event there are any disqualifying errors on their returned absentee ballot. This will prevent hundreds if not thousands of ballots being rejected like they were in April’s election for simple mistakes.
Lastly, election officials are committed to keeping as many polling locations open as possible to prevent long lines for in-person voters.
[Last updated Aug. 18, 2020]