Wisconsin Must Expand Absentee Voting to Every State Voter Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

MILWAUKEE–All Voting is Local and nine statewide voting rights organizations called on Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, legislative leaders and election officials to immediately send absentee ballots to all registered voters statewide in advance of the April 7 primary to protect public safety and democracy.

In their letter, the groups said: “We recognize the grave circumstances facing our state, and fully appreciate the work state and local officials have undertaken to protect the public from this pandemic. As state officials respond to protect the health and safety of Wisconsin residents, they must also preserve our democratic systems. We propose a number of steps we strongly urge Wisconsin officials to consider so that the  election on April 7, 2020 occurs without undue risk to public health — or the disenfranchisement of any eligible Wisconsinite, including particularly those voters who have long faced barriers to the ballot, including African Americans, low-income voters, voters with disabilities, and students.”

Among the group’s recommendations:

  • Mail all voters absentee ballots and provide a list of options to cast their completed ballots (including pre-paid postage for mail return).
  • Extend the deadline for online registration from today to Thursday, April 2, to account for the large number of eligible voters who may find they are unable to register in-person.
  • Allow mail registration forms to be returned to clerks by email as well as mail, and extend the deadline for emailed forms to Thursday, April 2. This will allow eligible voters who lack Wisconsin driver’s licenses or ID cards – including those with military and VA ID – more time to register.
  • Permit municipalities to begin counting absentee ballots as they come in. Due to an anticipated high volume of absentee ballots, permit municipalities to begin counting absentee ballots as they arrive.
  • Extend the absentee ballot request deadline to 3 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots would be required to be postmarked by Election Day and received within 10 days of Election Day. 
  • Allow any voter or their designated agent to drop off their absentee ballot at any polling location within their municipality. Options for requesting, receiving, and returning absentee ballots should be expanded to include drop boxes.
  • Waive the requirement to have a witness sign an absentee ballot
    1. Voters may need to self-quarantine, or otherwise not have access to another person in the home.
    2. Allow voters to fix missing signatures or other errors on absentee ballots, if there is a need to do so within 10 days following the election.

The letter is available here, and is signed by the following groups: 

African American Roundtable
All Voting is Local
American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin
Campaign Legal Center
Center for Secure and Modern Elections
Fair Elections Center
League of Women Voters
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Wisconsin Conservation Voices
Wisconsin Voices