The spring election polls in Wisconsin don’t open until 7 a.m. Tuesday, April 5, but people who want to cast their ballots before then can do so starting Monday, March 21 in their local municipal clerk’s office.

The idea of casting an absentee ballot ahead of time might have a special appeal to a lot of people this spring. In addition to local and county government and school board offices, some local referendums and the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, the spring election also will include Wisconsin’s presidential primary.

The presidential primary is expected to attract a higher voter turnout, and that could mean some long lines at times on Election Day, especially considering Wisconsin’s voter ID law is now being enforced.

City of Tomah clerk Jo Cram anticipates about 200 to 300 city electors will vote by absentee. That represents an estimated five percent of the total vote.

“We’ve got everything lined up and ready to go,” Cram said. “I have a voting booth set up. We haven’t had to hire extra people.”

She said mail-in absentees involve considerably more work than those who cast absentee ballot at Tomah city Hall.

“It’s a lot of work for the ones we have to mail,” she said.

Anybody who is eligible to vote (a U.S. citizen at least 18 years old and a resident for at least 28 days before the election) can cast an in-person absentee ballot during normal business hours at the municipal clerk’s office. No reason need be given by voters for casting an early absentee ballot.

As with voting on Election Day, early absentee voters also must present a photo ID before they can vote.

Acceptable forms of identification include driver licenses and ID cards issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, military ID cards, U.S. passports, ID cards issued by a federally recognized Indian tribe in Wisconsin, and some photo ID cards issued by a Wisconsin university, college or technical college with proof of enrollment.

Some documents other than a photo ID will be accepted as substitutes for a photo ID under certain conditions:

  • A certificate of naturalization that was issued not earlier than two years before the date of an election at which it is presented.
  • A driver license receipt issued by Wisconsin DOT (valid for 45 days).
  • An identification card receipt issued by Wisconsin DOT (valid for 45 days).
  • A citation or notice of intent to revoke or suspend a Wisconsin DOT-issued driver license that is dated within 60 days of the date of the election.
  • The address on an ID card doesn’t have to be current, and the name on the card doesn’t have to be an exact match to the name the voter is registered under (Robert instead of Bob, for example).

The deadline for casting in-person absentee ballots is Friday, April 1. The deadline could be earlier if the municipal clerk’s office is not open on Fridays.

People also can request a mail-in absentee ballot. People who want to do this should contact their municipal clerk and request that an application for an absentee ballot be sent. People may submit a written request in the form of a letter, which must list voting address, the address where the absentee ballot should be sent, if different, and a signature. People may make application for an absentee ballot by mail or in person.

The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot by mail is 5 p.m. Thursday, March 31.

Municipal clerks will deliver absentee ballots returned on or before Election Day to the proper polling place before the polls close on April 5. Any ballots received after the polls close will be counted by the board of canvassers if postmarked by Election Day and received no later than 4 p.m. Friday, April 8.

More information about voter ID requirements is available online at bringit.wi.gov, and people can find information about the candidates who will appear on their local ballot by visiting vote411.org and entering their address.

Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio contributed to this report.

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Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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