Kramer, Elkins & Watt

Vote in the Wisconsin Spring Election on April 7, 2020

Vote in the Wisconsin Spring Election on April 7, 2020

It is an exciting time for the government and political junkies in Wisconsin, and an important opportunity for Wisconsinites to have their voices heard. On April 7, voters in Wisconsin will have the ability go to the polls to determine the nominees for President of the United States for the Democratic and Republican Parties, to fill a 10-year seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and decide on any number of local elections for municipal leaders and school board members. Information about both Supreme Court candidates can be found here.

However, this year’s election is like none other because of the coronavirus pandemic and Governor Evers “safer-at-home” order.  As of now, the election is scheduled to continue as planned. However, the timing and administration of the election has recently been subject to a lot of public scrutiny and several lawsuits. For instance, the City of Green Bay, citing concerns about the health of clerks, poll workers, and voters, filed a lawsuit to postpone the April 7 election. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit this past Friday, but only on the grounds that the City did not have standing to bring the suit. Both Governor Evers and Republican leaders are, for now, reluctant to postpone the election. On Friday, Governor Evers called upon legislators to authorize mailing absentee ballots to all registered voters. The legislature has pushed back on this request. Thus, there are two ways to cast your vote for the April 7 election – by absentee ballot or in-person voting.

Voting Absentee

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Evers and legislators are strongly encouraging everyone to register online and vote absentee in order to prevent contact at polling places. Unfortunately, voters no longer have time to register to vote online, so you must register in person at your municipal clerk’s office and vote absentee there or register and vote in person on April 7.

Once you register (or if you are already registered), you can request an absentee ballot to avoid having to go to your polling station on April 7. You must request an absentee ballot by submitting this form to your local clerk or by requesting an absentee ballot online at https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/. To receive an absentee ballot, you must upload a photograph of your approved identification or swear that you are “indefinitely confined” and, therefore, unable to obtain an identification.

Recently, the Dane County Clerk and Milwaukee County Clerk advised voters that they could claim the “safer-at-home” order rendered them “indefinitely confined” to avoid having to upload their IDs. However, guidance from the Legislative Reference Bureau clarified that the current “safer-at home” order, in and of itself, is insufficient to create the “indefinitely confined” condition although that distinction may apply to voters because of “age, illness, infirmity or disability.” The Wisconsin Elections Commission has refused to investigate the Dane County and Milwaukee County Clerks based on their advice given those two counties are the two counties struggling the most against the coronavirus.

A voter’s absentee ballot application must be received by 5pm on April 2, and the completed ballot must be delivered no later than 8pm on April 7. The US Postal Service recommends absentee ballots be mailed one week in advance to ensure timely delivery. You can also arrange to absentee vote in person before April 7 by contacting your local clerk.

Voting In-Person

If you are not able to complete an absentee ballot, then the only other option is to show up in person at your local polling place on April 7, 2020 from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. If you do plan to vote in person, you are required to maintain six feet of social distancing. Also, voting may take longer due to a shortage of election workers who tend to be retired and are more susceptible to the coronavirus. However, the Wisconsin Elections Commission approved spending for additional alcohol, sanitizer, and spray bottles to be used at voting locations across the state.

To find your local polling place, go to https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/FindMyPollingPlace and type in your address. You should bring an acceptable form of photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, or other acceptable form. If you have not previously registered to vote, you should also bring a document proving your residence as well. Examples of documents to prove residence include utility bills, bank statements, paystubs, among others. A full list can be found here.

If you decided to vote in person, then you are entitled to take up to three hours off work to cast your ballot. Employers cannot refuse to give an employee time off if the employee requests the time off prior to election day. However, employees are not entitled to pay during the time off and employers may set the actual hours the employee can take.

While we at Kramer, Elkins & Watt, LLC want everyone to be safe and to think of the safety of their fellow citizens when planning for this election. It is important to vote; the act of voting is the most fundamental and important part of our democracy. KEW encourages social distancing and democratic engagement. Both can be done at the same time.