Primary Reveals Improvements in Wisconsin’s Election But Officials Have More Work to Do

MILWAUKEE – All Voting is Local Wisconsin State Director Shauntay Nelson issued the following statement on Wisconsin’s August 11 primary election, where lessons learned from April contributed to safer participation and record turnout for a primary election. 

“Compared to Wisconsin’s previous election on April 7, polling places were more equipped to safely manage voters relying on in-person election day services. Despite challenging circumstances, voters had expanded early voting location options and an adequate number of election day polling places. By-and-large, there was greater accessibility for Wisconsin voters. 

“However, Wisconsin officials must continue to make it easier and safer for people to vote. The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to impact our voting process as we head into November. Wisconsin’s administrators and elected officials must continue to do the right thing and remove barriers to the ballot. Voters deserve free, fair, and safe elections where every voice is heard.” 

Background: In response to the chaos of Wisconsin’s April election, Wisconsinites took advantage of their ability to cast their votes safely through their absentee voting option, submitting a record 903,760 absentee request applications. As of the morning of Election Day, only 506,709 of the 894,786 absentee ballots distributed statewide were returned; demonstrating the need for a substantial increase in ballot return options. Additionally, more resources are needed to ensure that voters understand their options for casting a ballot in November, that there is a clear process in place for curing minor absentee ballot errors, and that polling places have sufficient signage and are adequately staffed on Election Day. Wisconsin also needs to eliminate witness signature requirements and expand access to DMV services for accessing photo ID. 

Earlier this year, Demos and All Voting is Local released ‘COVID-19 Silence Voters of Color in Wisconsin,’ an analysis which revealed stark racial disparities and troubling patterns in voter turnout.