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How to Ensure Your Vote Will Count in Wisconsin

What you need to know about the state law and your voting rights

The Wisconsin voter ID law has seen much debate, court rulings, amendments and changes over the years, so it's easy to be confused. But whether you’re voting for the first time, need to register, or are unsure about your documents, the experts' advice is simple: Act early.

Matthew W. O’Neill handles campaign finance and election law at Fox, O’Neill & Shannon in Milwaukee, and has been working at the polls for years, helping with voter protection efforts, getting word out about voting rules and laws, and training fellow attorneys to do the same. He even testified before a Congress on proposed reforms to federal and state election laws in the wake of the 2004 presidential election, "when these issues were beginning to percolate up,” he says.

“Everyone should do some planning ahead of time,” he adds. “It’s really worthwhile. You can vote early and find out if you have a problem. If you don’t have the proper ID or proof of residence, you can go get it and come back another day.”

Voter Registration Requirements

There are two requirements in order to vote in Wisconsin:

1) You must register (which requires proof of residence)

2) You must have a valid ID

Proof of residence documents must have a voter’s name and current address. Examples include, but aren’t limited to:

  • A current and valid Wisconsin driver license or state ID card
  • Another license, ID card, or check issued by a Wisconsin governmental body
  • An employer ID that includes a photo, but is not a business card
  • A real estate tax bill or receipt
  • A gas, electric, or telephone statement (utility bill) from no more than 90 days before Election Day
  • A bank statement
  • A paystub or paycheck
  • A residential lease
  • An intake document from a residential care facility

You’re allowed to show electronic proof of residence at your polling place, O’Neill adds, “so what a lot of young folks do is pull up their cellphone bill on their cellphone, and that’s adequate.”

What Polling Locations Want for ID

Though it’s called the voter ID law, there is no such thing as a voter ID. So, the second item that is required is a valid photo ID, and includes any of the following acceptable forms:

  • A Wisconsin DOT-issued driver license
  • A Wisconsin DOT-issued ID card
  • A Military ID card issued by the U.S. Uniformed Services
  • A U.S. passport
  • A certificate of naturalization (issued no more than two years before Election Day)
  • An ID issued by a federally recognized Indian tribe in Wisconsin
  • A driver license or ID card receipt issued by Wisconsin DOT (valid for 45 days from date issued)
  • A Veteran Affairs ID card (must be unexpired)
  • An ID card issued by a Wisconsin accredited university, college, or technical college that contains the date issued, student signature, and expiration date no longer than two years after issuance; a document proving enrollment is also required

If you don’t have one of the above forms, you can visit a branch of the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles. The DMV will issue a special receipt via the ID Petition Process that allows an issuant to vote. The receipts are typically sent within six business days after a visit to the DMV.

For voters seeking in-depth guidance, O’Neill suggests two informational sites: bringitwisconsin.com and myvote.wi.gov.

Early voting is also allowed in the form of an absentee ballot submitted at designated count locations like your municipal clerk’s office and ballot drop boxes. “So you can submit your ballot in person,” O’Neill says.

For more information on this area of law, see our civil rights overview.

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