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Wisconsin absentee ballots surge as election officials urge absentee voting

(AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)
(AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)(NBC15)
Published: Mar. 17, 2020 at 11:13 AM CDT
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The Wisconsin Elections Commission reports Wisconsin voters are requesting absentee ballots at a record pace with concerns about Coronavirus COVID-19.

The number of absentee ballot requests in Wisconsin now exceeds those from each of the past three years, and the Wisconsin Elections Commission thinks it’s likely that number will continue to increase.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 173,000 absentee applications have been received by Wisconsin municipal clerks, with 64,000 of those coming since Friday the 13th. According to a news release, that exceeds total requests for three of the last four Spring Elections, and a record that Reid Magney with the WEC says he expects to surpass the 2016 count of 249,500 ballots.

The WEC is urging voters to register online before the online registration deadline passes Wednesday at midnight, in the wake of COVID-19 concerns that have resulted in massive cancellations of school districts, mass gatherings, and businesses across the state. Governor Evers has said that for now, the spring election on April 7 will go forward, despite election primaries being postponed in states like Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maryland as of Tuesday morning.

“The Wisconsin Elections Commission does not have the authority to postpone, delay or cancel the election. That would take a court order, a governor’s order, or an act of the legislature,” Magney told NewsChannel 7. A governor’s order could face a court challenge, which the Ohio governor skirted by declaring a health emergency.

Postponing the election in Wisconsin could mean significant challenges for local nonpartisan elections like towns, counties, and school boards, Magney noted.

“The new people are supposed to take the oath of office on the third Tuesday in April,” Magney said. “So some of those offices could be vacant if we don’t have elections.”

Registering to vote and requesting an absentee ballot through the

is fairly simple, but requesting an absentee ballot will require uploading a photo of a form of ID. At times, the WEC has been receiving selfies instead, Magney said.

“We want everyone who is eligible and who wants to vote to be able to do so safely,” Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief elections official, said. If your name or address has changed since you registered, you need to register with your current information. You can check your registration status at myvote.wi.gov, and click on “My Voter Info.”

March 18 is the deadline for electors to register to vote by mail or online for the Presidential Preference Primary and Spring Election. After this date, electors must register in person in the municipal clerk's office or at the polling place.

According to state law, mailed voter registration forms must be postmarked no later than the third Wednesday before the election. Online registration closes at 11:59 p.m. the same day.