Wisconsin nears absentee request deadline, ballots shouldn’t be mailed

    Vote sign in Madison on Majestic
    Vote sign on Majestic Theater Photo by Noah Pederson on Unsplash

    The deadline for registered voters in Wisconsin to request an absentee ballot is Thursday, Oct. 29. Elections officials say that from now until Election Day absentee ballots should be brought to local drop boxes or handed directly to local clerks — rather than put in the mail — to ensure the ballot arrives by 8 p.m. on Election Day. 

    With one week remaining, 1.7 million Wisconsinites have already requested an absentee ballot, according to Wisconsin Elections Commission data. More than 1.4 million of those ballots have been returned — 350,000 of which were in-person absentee ballots. 

    For the voters who have not yet returned their ballot and those who have yet to request one, the mail is no longer the best way to return ballots because the recommended time to allow for travel is one week. 

    Officials also recommend that voters not wait until the 5 p.m. deadline on Oct. 29 to request their ballot. 

    “More than 1.4 million Wisconsin voters have requested absentee ballots by mail, but only 1 million have been recorded as returned,” Meagan Wolfe, administrator for the WEC said in a news release. “Your ballot must arrive by Election Day to be counted and the U.S. Postal Service says it can take up to seven days for a letter to arrive, so if you’re planning to mail your ballot back, you should mail it back as soon as possible.”

    “Please do not wait for the legal deadline – which is 5 p.m. on Thursday, October 29 – for your clerk to receive your request for an absentee ballot by mail,” Wolfe continued. “If you wait until the deadline, you risk not getting your ballot in time to vote it and return it by 8 p.m. on Election Day.”

    Voters can still request ballots at the MyVote.WI.Gov website. That site also tracks in-person absentee voting locations and the locations of municipal ballot drop boxes. Drop-box and voting locations are also available on municipal websites — Madison and Milwaukee, for example, have more than a dozen boxes each. 

    After a U.S. Supreme Court decision ensured that there won’t be any extensions granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all absentee ballots must be returned to local clerks by 8 p.m. on Election Day. 

    “We want citizens to choose the option for voting that works best for them, but time is running out.  For voters who choose to vote absentee by mail, we want to be sure they have the information they need to navigate that process,” Wolfe said. “Of course, every voter who is eligible to vote in the state can also vote early or in person on Election Day.”

    The last day to register to vote and municipal clerk’s offices is Friday Oct. 30 — though eligible voters can also register in person on Election Day. In-person absentee voting is available through Sunday Nov. 1. 

    Election Day is Nov. 3.

    Henry Redman
    Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.