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How to Vote on Nov. 6

Wisconsin registration and voting rules have changed

Oct. 3, 2012
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 The state Supreme Court did the right thing last week when it declined to hear cases that could allow Wisconsin’s restrictive new voter ID rules to be in place for the general election on Nov. 6.

As it stands today, voters won’t need to show a photo ID when they cast a ballot, but they will need to heed new rules about voter registration, residency and early voting.

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to vote.

Am I eligible to vote?

Will you be at least 18 years old on Nov. 6? Are you a U.S. citizen? Will you be a Wisconsin resident on Oct. 10, 28 days before Election Day? If you have a felony conviction, will you have served out all terms of your sentence, including probation, parole or extended supervision by Election Day? Then yes, you may vote in Wisconsin.

What if I’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor?

You do not lose your right to vote if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor, even if you are serving your sentence on Election Day.

What if I’m charged with a felony, but haven’t been convicted?

You can vote if you have not been convicted of a felony by Nov. 6.

Do I need to register to vote?

Maybe. Are you a new voter? Has your name changed since you last voted? Have you moved since you last voted? Do you plan on moving between Oct. 10 and Nov. 6? Then you need to register to vote. Wisconsin law now requires voters to be a resident of the state for 28 days. Your voting address is wherever you are living on Oct. 10, 28 days before the Nov. 6 election. If you are registered to vote at that address, then you can vote. But if you’ve voted at a different address in the past, you need to register at your Oct. 10 address.

How do I know if I’m registered to vote?

Go to the state Government Accountability Board’s new voter information website, My Vote Wisconsin (https://myvote.wi.gov) and click on “regular voter.” That will take you to the voter search database. Type in your name and date of birth and you will find your voter profile, a sample ballot and your polling place location. If you need to update your information or register to vote at your current address, follow the instructions on the website.

It’s a good idea to check out My Vote Wisconsin even if you haven’t moved in a long time. The state revised our legislative districts this past year, so your district may have changed, even if you have stayed in place. Take a look at the sample ballot and become familiar with the candidates vying for your vote. Your polling place may have changed as well, so make note of that, too.

How do I register?

It’s pretty simple. If you register before Oct. 17, then you need to fill out a registration form and provide your Wisconsin driver’s license number. If you don’t have a driver’s license, then you must provide your state ID number or the last four digits of your Social Security number. You don’t need to show any of these forms of identification to register, but you will need to provide the numbers. Prior to Oct. 17, city of Milwaukee residents can register at the City of Milwaukee Election Commission in City Hall (200 E. Wells St.), at any Milwaukee Public Library, or through a voter registration drive. (If you live outside of Milwaukee, contact your local municipal clerk for registration sites.) After you register, you will receive a confirmation postcard in the mail, which will also list your Nov. 6 polling place.

After Oct. 17 and up until Nov. 2, you can register to vote at City Hall, but not at the library or through registration drives. Signs will be posted at City Hall to let you know if you should register at the Election Commission or in the Zeidler Municipal Building (841 N. Broadway).

When you register during this period, you will need to provide your proof of residence. Typically, this can be a current and valid Wisconsin driver’s license (not suspended or revoked) or state ID with your current address, a utility or bank bill with your current address, or another document with your current address. For a full list of acceptable documents, go to My Vote Wisconsin or the Election Commission’s website (city.milwaukee.gov/vote). You can even use an electronic bank statement as long as it lists your current address.

Can I register to vote on Election Day?

Yes. You will need to record your Wisconsin driver’s license number or state ID number as well as provide your proof of residence. You can use your current and valid driver’s license or state ID or a document that lists your name and current address, such as a utility bill, lease or paycheck.

What are the residency requirements?

Your voting residence is wherever you will be living on Oct. 10, 28 days before the election. If you plan to move after Oct. 10 and before Nov. 6, you must vote based on your Oct. 10 address to fulfill Wisconsin’s residency requirements.

What if I’m couch surfing and don’t have a permanent address?

This is a common question posed by students and other folks who lack a permanent address or a lease or utility bill in their name. Your best bet is to register to vote before Oct. 17 because you will not need to provide your proof of residence. You will get a postcard in the mail to confirm your address before the election.

Can I vote before Election Day?

Absolutely. Milwaukee residents can vote an in-person absentee ballot from Monday, Oct. 22, to Friday, Nov. 2, at the Zeidler Municipal Building. If you are a registered voter, enter the building from Market Street (830 N. Market St.). If you need to register or make changes to your registration, enter the building from Broadway (841 N. Broadway). Milwaukee will allow ballots to be cast Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 27, and Sunday, Oct. 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Note that no early voting can be conducted between Saturday, Nov. 3, and Monday, Nov. 5.) If you live outside of Milwaukee, check with your local municipal clerk for times and locations.

If you vote an in-person absentee ballot before Election Day and you are already registered to vote at your current address, you will not be asked to show a photo ID, but you will have to state your name and address and sign the poll book.

If you are not registered to vote at your Oct. 10 address, you can register to vote prior to casting your early ballot. You will be asked to provide your driver’s license or state ID number and provide your proof of residence—a state-issued ID with your current address or a lease, utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or another document listed at My Vote Wisconsin.

I would like to vote early and mail in my ballot. How do I do that?

You must request an absentee ballot in writing, either by downloading an absentee ballot request form from My Vote Wisconsin or the city’s Election Commission (city.milwaukee.gov) and mailing, emailing or faxing it, or by writing a letter and sending it to your municipal clerk. Your request must include your name, address, mailing address if it’s different from your voting address, the date of the election for which you want to vote, and your date of birth.

Once your absentee ballot arrives, you should fill out the ballot and the certificate envelope and have a witness sign it to verify that you voted that ballot. (Instructions are provided with the ballot.)

If it is postmarked by Election Day, your ballot will be counted. You can also drop it off at City Hall (ask your local municipal clerk if you live outside of Milwaukee) anytime up until polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day. You cannot drop off your ballot at your voting site on Election Day.

Do not even think about filling out an absentee ballot and then voting at the polls. If you vote twice, one of your votes will be struck and you will be referred to the district attorney’s office for an investigation.

The city of Milwaukee needs poll workers for the Nov. 6 election. Go to city.milwaukee.gov/election for more information.

More Voting Questions?

My Vote Wisconsin


1-866-VOTE-WIS (1-866-868-3947)


Milwaukee Election Commission




Wisconsin Election Protection

Look for Wisconsin Election Protection on Facebook

1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683)


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