Absentee vs. mail-in voting: What’s the difference?

As Wausau city clerk Leslie Kremer explains, both methods fall under the same category
Published: Aug. 22, 2020 at 6:57 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - As the November election draws near, a major topic of discussion has been the difference, or lack thereof, between mail-in voting and absentee voting. NewsChannel 7 spoke with Wausau City Clerk Leslie Kremer and asked her to explain the difference between the two.

“Mail-in voting is requesting, in writing, your ballot to be mailed to you and then you return it by election day,” Kremer explained. “Absentee, early in-person voting is requesting an absentee ballot, in the clerk’s office or wherever they have designated it and voting in the clerk’s office and not being able to leave with that ballot. In both situations, you’re voting absentee, it’s being held until election day to be counted, but it’s absentee either in person or mailing.”

In Wisconsin, any registered voter can request an absentee ballot by mail without excuse.

Universal mail-in voting, which is being conducted in states like Colorado and California and has been criticized by President Donald Trump as being open to fraud, sends ballots to all registered voters whether requested or not.

Kremer says photo identification is required whether you’re requesting a ballot by mail or in person.

“If you are not an indefinitely confined voter, you have to provide photo ID the first time that you request an absentee by mail ballot and then we keep that on file so that if you request absentee mail-in votes in the future, you don’t have to provide that photo ID each time,” Kremer explained, saying that only one ballot can be issued. “Our election workers are at the polls on election day; they’re looking in that pollbook to see, there’s a watermark if that person’s been issued an absentee ballot, so they can’t vote twice. We don’t send out an absentee ballot to anyone unless they have provided the photo ID ahead of time.”

Those same requirements are in place for early in-person absentee voting.

“When you come to city hall to vote, you have to show a photo ID just like you would polls,” Kremer said. “Either which way you have to prove who you are.”

And when it comes to security, Kremer says the proper precautions are in place.

“It is safe and secure,” Kremer assured. “When we receive the absentee ballots back, they are recorded right away, the day that we receive them, and then they’re locked in a secure place in my office until election day so there cannot be any tampering.”

Anyone interested in voting absentee is encouraged to request a ballot sooner rather than later.

You can begin that process now by heading to this website.

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