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A Brief Guide to Voting in Wisconsin

Voting is your most fundamental right and your most important contribution to our democracy. Take a moment to make sure nothing interferes with your ability to vote by reading this quick guide to voting in Wisconsin.

The polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. As long as you are standing in line at 8:00 p.m. you will be able to vote.

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Eligibility

    Voters in Wisconsin must be:

  • a citizen of the United States
  • a Wisconsin resident
  • at least 18 year old by November 4, 2008
  • Voters who have resided in Wisconsin for 10 days or fewer can only vote for president and vice-president.

Registration

    If you are eligible to vote, your next step is getting registered. Getting registered to vote in Wisconsin is easy and convenient.

    Until 5:00 p.m. on October 15th, voters can register with a Special Registration Deputy at any of our Campaign for Change offices. Voters can also fill out one of these formsand mail them to their local municipal clerk's office. Clerk's offices generally keep normal business hours and are closed on weekends.

    Between now and November 3rd, voters can register in person at their municipal clerk’s office.

    On Election Day, voters can register at the polls.

    We recommend that voters register as soon as possible to avoid Election Day lines!

    What You Need to Register

    Identification Number: Voters must supply their Wisconsin driver’s license or state-issued ID number on the registration form. Voters who have not been issued a Wisconsin driver’s license or state-issued ID must supply the last four digits of their Social Security number on the registration form.

    Proof of Residence: Voters who register before 5:00 p.m. on October 15th do not have to provide proof of residence, if they register at the municipal clerk’s office or with a Special Registration Deputy. Voters who register by mail do have to provide proof of residence, regardless of when they register.

    Voters who register after October 15th must supply valid proof of residence. Valid proof of residence can be any of the following documents, provided that the document contains their complete name and current Wisconsin address:

  • A Wisconsin driver’s license or state-issued ID card [remember: it must contain the student’s current Wisconsin address if s/he wants to register at school]
  • A current residential lease, if the student lives in off-campus housing
  • Any utility bill (online cell-phone bill print-outs count!) from the past 90 days
  • A bank statement
  • A paycheck
  • A real property tax bill for either of the last two years
  • Any document issued by a unit of government [for students attending a UW school, this includes any letter sent to students by the school, if the letter contains the student’s current physical address – if the letter only contains a student’s mailing address, it is not sufficient proof of residence]
  • Students who live in a public, university-run dormitory can show their college IDs to satisfy the proof of residence requirement if the university has provided the clerk’s office with a list of students who live in the dorms.

Absentee Voting

    Any eligible voter who is unwilling or unable to come to the polls on Election Day can vote by absentee ballot. Voters can request an absentee ballot by mail at any time, but the request must be received (not postmarked) by the clerk’s office by October 30th at 5:00 p.m.

    Absentee ballots are typically sent out by clerks’ offices around October 6th. Ballots must be delivered, by mail or in person, to the clerk’s office by 8:00 p.m. on November 4th. Different rules apply for active military voters.

    An absentee ballot sent in the mail must be witnessed and signed by an adult U.S. citizen on the back of the envelope. This person does not need to be registered or eligible to vote in Wisconsin, but must not be a candidate.

    Begin the Application Process.

Voting Myths

    Myth: I can’t vote because I am not registered.

    Fact: If you are eligible to vote, you can register at the polls ON ELECTION DAY!

    There is a separate line at every polling place for voters who need to first register. You will have to fill out a registration form, provide your license number (or Social Security number if you don’t have a Wisconsin license) and show proof of residence. The following qualify as proof of residence, provided that the document contains the individual’s complete name and current Wisconsin address:

    • A Wisconsin driver’s license or state-issued ID card
    • A current residential lease;
    • Any utility bill (online cell-phone bill print-outs count!) from the past 90 days;
    • A bank statement;
    • A paycheck;
    • A property tax bill from either 2007 or 2008; or
    • Any document issued by a unit of government




    Myth: If I wear Obama paraphernalia, I will be turned away from the polls and not allowed to vote.

    Fact: You will be allowed to vote. You may, in rare circumstances, be required to take off buttons/hats and cover up t-shirts.

    The Wisconsin poll worker manual advises poll workers to permit voters with campaign buttons and shirts to "cast his or her vote and leave. If the elector engages in electioneering or remains in the polling place as an observer, the individual should be directed to cover or remove any campaign paraphernalia he or she is wearing." GAB Election Administration Manual (p. 108).

    Poll workers may request you to cover your t-shirt or take off your hat/button while in the polling place, but cannot turn you away if you comply.




    Myth: I will get jury duty if I vote.

    Fact: Jury duty is drawn primarily from the list of licensed drivers.

    A person selected for jury service must be chosen at random from a source list using the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s list of people with motor vehicle licenses or identification cards who live in the area served by that circuit court.

    Some counties may use additional source lists. For county specific information, click here.




    Myth: I can’t vote because I can’t bring my children to the polling place and there is no one to watch them.

    Fact: You can bring your children with you into the voting booth!

    In fact, you should bring your kids with you – what a great civics lesson!

    Wisconsin law states that parents or guardians may be accompanied into the voting booths by their minor child(ren) or their ward(s). Wis. Stat. 6.80 (1).




    Myth: I can’t vote because I can’t get to the polls on Election Day (I will be at work, out of town, etc.)

    Fact: You can vote absentee! Absentee voting at the municipal clerk’s office runs from October 6th - November 3rd at 5:00 p.m.

    Anyone who is qualified to vote can do so by absentee ballot, for any reason. Voters can vote absentee by mail or in person. Wis. Stat. § 6.85. A voter must submit a written request for an absentee ballot to the municipal clerk. The state board provides a standardized form, Application for Absentee Ballot (Form EB-121).




    Myth: Absentee ballots are not counted on Election Day and only count if the vote is close.

    Fact: Absentee ballots are processed on Election Day by the same election officials who process ballots cast in person.

    The municipal clerk, on Election Day, has couriers deliver the absentee ballots to the appropriate polling site. At some point on Election Day, officials follow a specific procedure to count the absentee ballots. In Milwaukee, absentee ballot will be processed in a central location for the entire city.

    If the ballot is completed properly, the enveloped is opened, the voter is checked off the registration list as having voted absentee and the ballot is run through the machine – the same as the ballot cast by a voter who is present in the polling place. Wis. Stat. 6.88(3)(a).




    Myth: I can’t register and vote because I don’t have proof of residence…(I haven’t changed my license since I moved / I don’t have a written lease / I don’t have a driver’s license/official id card).

    Fact: If someone who can verify where you live does have proof of residence they can corroborate for you at the polls so you can register and vote.

    Individuals can register without proof of residence if they are accompanied by an eligible Wisconsin voter of the same municipality, called a “corroborator,” who,
    1. Shows valid proof of residence (see above list) and
    2. Signs an oath affirming that the individual lives at the address listed on her/his registration form. The corroborator does not have to be registered to vote.

    Wis. Stat. 6.55(2)(b).




    Myth: I must show photo ID at the polls.

    Fact: Wisconsin does NOT have a photo ID requirement.

    If you registered with a Special Registration Deputy or with your clerk, you do not have to show proof of residence. You have to show proof of residence at the polls if you are not yet registered OR if you registered by mail and did not include proof of residence with your application.




    Myth: I can’t vote because I haven’t lived in Wisconsin for a year.

    Fact: You can vote in Wisconsin in the Presidential election even if you just moved here. You can vote in all races if you have resided in Wisconsin for 10 days.

    A person who is otherwise qualified who had moved to Wisconsin before October 25, 2008 is eligible to vote in the municipality where they now reside in Wisconsin. Wis. Stat. 6.02(1).

    A person who has moved to Wisconsin after October 25, 2008 can vote in the presidential election (only) as long as they do not vote in their previous place of residence. Wis. Stat. 6.15.




    Myth: My absentee ballot will not be counted (because I was wearing an Obama button etc).

    Fact: Clerks have an obligation to record the names of people who have completed absentee ballots. Absentee ballots are processed on Election Day with ballots cast in person and look identical when counted.

    The Government Accountability Board requires that each clerk maintain an Absentee Ballot Log, which is used to track the events that occur during the absentee ballot process (for example, applications received or faxed requests). Some clerks maintain this log in the statewide registration voter system. The Obama Campaign will periodically purchase these lists to ensure that they are being kept accurately.

    On Election Day, municipal couriers deliver the absentee ballots to the appropriate polling site. At some point on Election Day, they follow a specific procedure to count the absentee ballots. A few municipalities -- such as Milwaukee -- deliver all the absentee ballots to a central location to be counted on Election Night. The Obama Campaign will have observers monitoring this process carefully.

    The election inspectors may process the absentee ballots at any time on Election Day.

    If the envelope is completed properly, the enveloped is opened, the voter is checked off the registration list as having voted absentee and the ballot is run through the machine, the same as the ballot cast by a voter who is present in the polling place. Wis. Stat. 6.88(3)(a).




    Myth: If I vote straight ticket for the Democratic Party, I also have to vote for Obama on the same ballot or my vote for President won’t count.

    Fact: No. In Wisconsin, if you vote straight Democratic ticket, with no other marks, your vote for President will automatically be counted for Obama.




    Myth: If I vote straight Democratic ticket and vote for Obama on the same ballot, my ballot will be thrown out as invalid.

    Fact: No. Your vote will still count as a vote for Obama AND for the rest of the Democratic ticket. If you vote straight ticket Democrat, your vote for Obama will count whether or not you also vote for Obama on the same ballot.

    Wisconsin law requires all ballots to have a straight ticket party option.

    If you vote just straight ticket with no other marks: Every candidate from that party on the ballot, including President, gets a vote. Voters ALSO have the option of voting straight ticket, and then voting for specific offices on the same ballot. Any votes for specific candidates in the same party in addition to a straight ticket vote on the same ballot still get counted the same: once. That ballot is still valid.

    If a voter votes straight Democratic ticket, and then decides to vote for a candidate in another party, the ballot is also still valid. In this case, the specific vote for the non-Democratic candidate counts, and the straight ticket vote for the Democratic candidates for every other office on the ballot, including President, also counts.

    Wis. Stat. 5.64(1)(ar)1.

College Students

    Wisconsin has a history of strong voting participation by students. In 2000, Wisconsin had the highest youth voter turnout in the country; in 2004, it was second-highest. Democrats carried Wisconsin on the strength of the youth vote in 2004 and 2006. The campaign is counting on your support in 2008.

    In the weeks before elections, college campuses are often swamped with false rumors and incorrect facts about the voting rights of students, particularly those students whose parents live outside of Wisconsin. This document sets the record straight: All Students Can Vote!

    Residency Requirements


    Students attending college in Wisconsin can register and vote at their school address. This includes students whose parents live out-of-state. Any rumor to the contrary is false.

    Registration Requirements


    Wisconsin is one of only a few states that allow voters to register on Election Day (November 4) at their polling place. The campaign, however, encourages students to register early to avoid Election Day lines. Students can register with a Special Registration Deputy on campus until October 15 and can register only at their municipal clerk’s office starting October 16. Students who register after October 15 or who register on Election Day must provide proof of residence (see below)

    Proof of Residence


    Students who live in a public, university-run dormitory can show their college IDs to satisfy the proof of residence requirement if the university has provided the clerk’s office with a list of students who live in the dorms.

    In addition, students (dorm and non-dorm) can satisfy the proof of residence requirement if they submit one of the following documents, provided that the document contains their complete name and current Wisconsin address (i.e. their school address): (1) A Wisconsin driver’s license or state-issued ID card; (2) A current residential lease; (3) A utility bill (including a cell-phone bill); (4) A bank statement; (5) A paycheck; or (6) Any document issued by a unit of government (for students attending a UW school, this includes any letter sent to students by the school, if the letter contains the student’s current physical address).

    Students who lack proof of residence are not out of luck. Students can still register if the student is accompanied to the clerk’s office by an eligible Wisconsin voter (including a fellow student), called a “corroborator,” who (1) shows valid proof of residence (see above list) and (2) signs an oath affirming that the student lives at the address listed on her/his registration form.

    In-Person Absentee Voting


    Students can cast their ballot before Election Day at their municipal clerk’s office. Starting the week of October 6, municipal clerks will make ballots available for voters who prefer to vote before Election Day. Students should call their municipal clerk first to ensure that the ballots are available.

    Driver’s Licenses and Car Registration


    Students do not need a Wisconsin driver’s license or state-issued ID to vote in Wisconsin (those without such an ID can use their Social Security number to register). And Wisconsin law does not require voters to obtain a Wisconsin driver’s license or license plates after voting.

    Federal Financial Aid


    Students’ federal financial aid and FAFSA status will not be affected by voting in Wisconsin. Federal aid includes: Pell Grants, Perkins and Stafford Loans, Academic Competitive Grants, SMART Grants, and other federal loans.

    State-Based Financial Aid


    Only two states – Rhode Island and Vermont – provide financial aid to students who choose to attend school out-of-state in Wisconsin. Thus, out-of-state students not from one of those two states probably do not receive state financial aid. Even students from Rhode Island or Vermont will probably not have their aid affected by voting in Wisconsin, but they can double-check.

    Private Financial Aid


    It is unlikely that any private provider of financial aid will care where their recipients vote. Students can double check with their provider, however, if they have any questions or doubts.

    Car Insurance


    A student’s decision to vote in Wisconsin will have no impact on the student’s car insurance rates, regardless of whether they are paid by the student or the student’s parents.

    Health Insurance


    A student’s decision to vote in Wisconsin will not affect her/his eligibility for any University of Wisconsin health insurance plan. It is highly unlikely that a student’s decision to vote in Wisconsin will affect her/his eligibility for any health insurance plan obtained through the student’s parents. Students can double check with their provider, however, if they have any questions or doubts.

    Taxes


    If the student is financially dependent (i.e. the student’s parents pay for more than half of the student’s annual expenses), the decision to vote in Wisconsin will have no effect on the parents’ ability to claim the student as a dependent. If the student is financially independent, the decision to vote in Wisconsin will be one of many factors that determine whether the parents can claim the student as a dependent.

    Tuition


    Where a student votes is only one of several factors that the state considers in assessing eligibility for in-state tuition. In all likelihood, casting a vote in Wisconsin will not allow students whose parents live elsewhere to claim in-state tuition eligibility.

Problems at the Polling Place?

    If you are in line when the polls close at 8:00 p.m., you can register & vote! If your vote is challenged, and you answer the inspector’s questions you will be given a regular ballot. Poll workers cannot ask you about personal financial matters. You have the right to vote even if you have unpaid bills, parking tickets, overdue taxes, or a home at risk of foreclosure. The fact that you do not speak English or have a HAVA nonmatch is not a valid basis for a challenge. Call 877-OBAMA-WI to report any problem you encounter while voting.

Disabilities, Age or Medical Concerns?

    If you are elderly or have disabilities, you have the right to vote in a way that is accessible to you: by voting curbside from your car, going to the front of the line, or having someone assist you. Call 877-OBAMA-WI to report any problem you encounter while voting.

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