Something You Should Know About/The Facts about Absentee Ballots/Mail-in Voting in Wisconsin

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by Hope Lee Vicich

As we approach one of the most divisive elections in recent history, there is a lot of conflicting and incorrect information being circulated around the topic of Mail-in ballots.  To help ensure that all your votes get counted, I have researched the topic and would like to share what I have found.
While some form of mail-in ballots are allowed in every state, the information I will be sharing deals specifically with the laws in Wisconsin and Barron County in particular.
Absentee Ballots vs. Mail-in Ballots.  In general, the main difference between states that use Absentee Ballots or “Mail-in” balloting is how those ballots reach the registered voter.  In Wisconsin, we use absentee ballots.  Absentee Ballots are “mail-in” ballots that must be specifically requested by a registered voter.  Anyone can request an absentee ballot and there is not a requirement to prove why you  need or want one.
States that practise “voting by mail” all vary in their details but generally mail ballots to all registered voters, and leave it up to those voters as to whether to return the ballots by mail or to vote in person on election day.
From that point on, all ballots received by mail, or dropped off in approved locations, are treated in the exact same way.
A few things to note:
• In order to receive either ballot you must have previously registered to vote.  That means you have shown a photo ID and proof of residency,
• Once either type is returned, there is no difference in how they are handled by election officials.
How mailed in ballots are handled.
Absentee or Mail-in ballots are returned to the municipal clerk where you are registered to vote. The return envelope shows the voter’s  and winesses’ signatures and addresses, this  allows the clerk to verify that the ballot qualifies for counting, and allows for voter verification without compromising the privacy of the actual ballot.  
The ballot is then recorded as being received by the clerk, and secured until it is  counted on election day.
Can you request an absentee ballot and then vote in person? It depends on if you have already mailed in the absentee ballot.
When you request an absentee ballot, the local clerk  enter the information into the state data base, Wisvote.  This information is what the poll workers have on their poll list.
Once you have received your absentee ballot, you may choose to handle it couple of ways. You can fill it out, sign and have it witnessed and mail it in or drop it off at the appropriate location (approved locations for local polls are listed below), and you can also vote absentee at your local municipal clerk’s office.  
If you apply for an absentee ballot in your municipal clerk’s office, or another designated location for in-person absentee voting, you can vote your ballot immediately in the clerk’s office, seal your ballot in the proper envelope, and return it to a member of the clerk’s staff.  No ballots may be taken out of the clerk’s office.
You will need to show your acceptable photo ID for voting when voting by in-person absentee ballot.  More information about acceptable photo IDs can be found at The first day you can in person vote an Absentee Ballot is Oct. 20th
You can also decide not to return the ballot and vote in person on election day instead.
If you decide to go to the polls on election day, the poll worker will check the poll list and will see if you have a) requested a ballot, and b) if that ballot has been returned.  If the roll shows that you have requested a ballot but it doesn’t show it was received yet, they will ask if you have mailed it in. If you have requested a ballot and state that you mailed it in, that is your vote.  The poll worker will not let you cast another in person.  If you lie and say “no” to mailing it and vote again in person, that is voter fraud. Once the duplicate votes have been identified, your name will be turned over to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution.
Types of Voter Fraud
Casting multiple ballots is only one instance of voter fraud. Others include filling out and submitting a ballot for a spouse or other family member, filing a ballot for a deceased person; and voting in multiple jurisdictions. For example, casting a ballot at your home poll and at your cabin’s poll location, or a college student voting at home and at school. Any violations of the voting regulations open you up to prosecution for voter fraud.
 Most instances of “attempted fraud” are caught when the votes are recordered.  At the polls at the end of election day, a count is done of ballots casts against number of voters recorded (mailed in and physical).  If the numbers do not match (more votes than voters)reasearch is done to see if the discrepancy can be found in the poll lists, if the answer is not found, then one result maybe that random ballots are drawn and discarded until the count does tally. Then further research is conducted to find who submitted the duplicate vote(s) and their names are turned over for prosecution.
Another safe guard in place in most, if not all states is that if a ballot is returned by the post office as “undeliverable,” the voter’s name can be removed from the poll lists  and they must re-register before they are eligible to vote in future elections.
Lastly, the reality is that there is an extremely small percentage of actual attempts at voter fraud because most people aren’t willing to risk being fined and charged with a felony over an extra vote in an election.
How do I request an absentee ballot?
Registered Wisconsin voters can download the Application For Absentee Ballot (EL-121).  Just complete the form and mail it to your municipal clerk’s office. You can find your clerk at:
Your application must be received by the clerk no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday before the election in order for an absentee ballot to be SENT to you.  You will also need to provide a copy of your acceptable photo ID with your request.  If you have not previously provided a copy of photo ID, photo ID must accompany your first application by mail.  More information about photo ID can be found at
If you are not already registered, you will need to register to vote before an absentee ballot can be sent to you.
Voters who are indefinitely confined due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability may request that a ballot be automatically sent to them for each election.  Indefinitely confined voters do not need to provide a photo ID with their absentee ballot request.  If you or someone you know are indefinitely confined you will make this designation in box 6 of the Application for Absentee Ballot (EL-121).  More information on the exceptions to the photo ID law can be found at:
You can request an absentee ballot by e-mail, online, or by Fax.  Registered voters can go to to request their absentee ballot by clicking “Vote Absentee.”  Military and overseas voters may also request that a ballot be sent to them by sending an e-mail or fax to their municipal clerk.
Please note:
• Your completed absentee ballot must be delivered no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.   
• Absentee Ballot Application/Certification envelopes MUST contain the following in order to be counted - without they are to be Rejected: 1) Signature of the Voter and Date signed; 2) Signature AND Address of a Witness, who is an adult (18+ yrs) US Citizen. The address of the witness is the most frequently missed.
• Spouses may witness for each other, as long as he/she is an adult US Citizen.  Be sure to include the address of the witness, even if it’s your spouse and the same as yours.
Mail-in or drop-off?
Many people are concerned over the timely delivery of mailed-in ballots. The U.S. Postal Service recommends absentee ballots be mailed one week before Election Day to arrive in time.
If you are able, all municipalities have provisions for dropping off your ballot in person.  
Locally, here is the information I received from the municipal clerks about drop off locations:
• City of Cumberland: City Hall, 950 1st Ave, Cumberland, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Mon-Fri).
• Town of Cumberland: by appointment only: Call 715-357-6154 for more information.
• Town of Crystal Lake: Accepting them by appointment with the clerk-treasurer, call 715-491-1759 for more information.
• Town of Lakeland: There is a  payment drop box installed on the front exterior of the Town Hall.  (791 29 11/16th Ave., Barronett ) The slot and storage is large enough for ballot envelopes.*
• Town of Maple Plain has a drop slot on the front exterior of the town hall (393 26th Ave., Cumberland) that is labeled “Letters.”  This depository also can handle ballot envelopes.*
* Voters may call their Town Hall during Polling Place hours to alert poll workers to accept their ballot by curbside delivery.  Voters may send their sealed ballot envelope with a trusted individual to deliver to the polls.  And, finally, voters may drop their ballot envelope in the drop box/slot on Election Day and the box is checked throughout the day and just before 8:00 p.m. to gather any final absentee ballots.
I hope this all helps.  If you have more questions, the best resource for the most complete information on all types of voting in Wisconsin is:  You can find your polling place, see what’s on their ballot, register to vote, request an absentee ballot, and access information regarding your voter record, including the following:
• View a list of elections you have voted in;
• Check your current registration information;
• Update your name and address;
• Request an absentee ballot;
•Find your elected officials; and
• Track your absentee ballot.
Note: Clerks are required to enter election data within 30 days of an election.  Therefore, you may not see that you voted in the recent election if it is still within this window of time.
My thanks to Barron County Clerk DeeAnn Cook and all the other municipal clerks for their help in compiling this information.
Whomever you chose to vote for, or however you choose to vote, the important thing is that you VOTE!  Every vote matters, now more than ever.



Cumberland Advocate

375 2nd Ave, PO Box 637
Cumberland, WI 54829
Phone: (715) 822-4469
Hours:  8:30 AM–4:30 PM M-F