Wisconsin made national headlines this week after an Ozaukee County Circuit Court judge ruled that more than 200,000 registered voters will be ineligible to vote unless they re-register. With less than 11 months to go before the 2020 presidential election, the ruling is expected to be appealed and will likely head to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, though given the court’s 5-2 conservative majority it seems unlikely to be overturned.
The political consequences of the ruling are potentially enormous. In 2016, Donald Trump won the state by less than 23,000 votes out of more than three million cast. And the ruling hits Milwaukee especially hard. According to a Journal Sentinel analysis, voters in Milwaukee and Madison were disporportationately targeted for removal from the state’s voter roll. Voters in those areas account for 14% of the state’s registered voters, but received 23% of the 234,000 letters the state Elections Commission sent in October threatening to remove them unless they updated their registrations.
That letter requested voters inform the state if they had moved, or let election officials know if they were still at their same address. Voters who received that letter but did not respond — and the overwhelming majority did not — would be ineligible to vote under Friday’s ruling even if they did not actually move.
The good news, however, is that registering to vote is relatively easy in Wisconsin. Below you’ll find everything you need to know to make sure you’re registered when it’s time to vote. Because this is a developing story, the safest way to ensure you are eligible to vote is to check your eligibility closer to, but at least 20 days before, election day. You can also register at the poll on election day.
Here’s how to register to vote in Wisconsin
You have to REGISTER if:
- You’ve never voted in Wisconsin before;
- You’ve moved since the last time you voted in Wisconsin – even if you just moved across the street or to a new apartment in your building;
- You changed your name (by marriage, divorce, etc.) since the last time you voted. (If you changed your name you must first update your name IN PERSON at the Social Security Office and at the DMV. Then you can register to vote);
- You haven’t voted in four years or more (and have been taken off the voter registration rolls); or
- You were taken off the voter registration rolls because of being convicted of a felony, and now you’re “off paper” and want to vote again. More info on voting for persons with criminal convictions click here.
There are many ways to register:
- You can register online If you have a Wisconsin license or Wisconsin ID card, at https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/RegisterToVote, until 20 days before an election. (If your address has changed, update your address on the DMV website BEFORE you register to vote online. http://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/online-srvcs/change-addy/default.aspx);
- You can register by mail until 20 days before an election. Fill out & print the form a:t http://elections.wi.gov/sites/default/files/gab_forms/4/el_131_voter_registration_app_fillable_rev_2016__16117.pdf ;
- You can register in person at the Municipal Clerk’s office or your early voting site until the Friday before an election;
- You can register at the polls on Election Day.
To register, if you have a current, valid Wisconsin driver’s license or Wisconsin ID, you need to put the license or ID number and expiration date on the online or paper registration form.
- If you have a valid Wis. license or State ID but don’t know the number and expiration date, get it from the DMV by calling 608-266-2261.
- If you don’t have a Wisconsin license or ID, YOU STILL CAN REGISTER. Just write the last four digits of your Social Security number on the online or paper form.
- IMPORTANT: You DO NOT need a photo ID to register to vote, but you MUST HAVE a photo ID to vote. See more information about photo ID here.
If you are registering in person or by mail, you have to show a document with your first and last name, and current (voting) address.
- The document must be valid on the day it is used to register.
- If you are registering in person at the Clerk’s office or at the polls on Election Day you can show an electronic copy from your smartphone or tablet. Otherwise, you usually have to show or mail a paper copy of the document.
- If you are registering by mail, send a copy of the document with your registration form.
You CAN’T use collection notices, magazines or personal mail to prove your address.
The document with your name and current address can be:
- a recent utility bill (electric, gas, cell or landline phone, cable, internet, etc.);
- a lease (unless you are registering by mail);
- a WI drivers license or ID card;
- a contract or intake document prepared by a residential care facility that says you currently reside in that facility;
- any ID card issued by a WI governmental body (like a fishing/hunting license, or concealed carry license);
- an employer ID card with your photo and home address (but not a business card);
- a bank statement ;
- a paycheck;
- a WI college/university photo ID along with a tuition fee receipt;
- a letter from any agency that serves homeless persons (does NOT have to be an overnight shelter – can be also day shelter, church, meal program, etc.);
- any government document or check like:
- Car, truck and other vehicle registrations;
- Speeding tickets, underage drinking tickets or other municipal tickets;
- Food stamps (SNAP), Medicaid/BadgerCare, Wisconsin Works (W-2), and Wisc. Shares, letters, notices, benefit statements or paperwork;
- Social Security and SSI notices, letters and benefit statements;
- Medicare Notices and Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) (not from private health insurance providers);
- Unemployment compensation notices, letters and benefit statements;
- Public high school, public technical college, public college, and public university letters and documents, including admissions correspondence, financial aid notices, report cards, and class schedules;
- Federal or state government financial aid letters & notices (not from private entities like Sallie Mae or Great Lakes Higher Ed. Corp.);
- Public library letters or records;
- Court notices and paperwork;
- Police reports;
- Tax refund checks or notices from IRS or Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue;
- Billing statements and collection notices from a governmental entity;
- Letters from a federally recognized Wisconsin Native American tribe;
- Letters, notices or paperwork from the city, town, village or public school district; city, town, village or county clerk or treasurer’s office; etc.;
- Letters, notices or other paperwork from state agencies like Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV or DOT), Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), Dept. of Workforce Development (DWD), Dept. of Health Services (DHS), Dept. of Children and Families (DCF), and many others
- Letters, notices or paperwork from the federal government, like Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Social Security Administration (SSA), & many others;
- Veterans’ Administration (VA) papers like letters, notices, & medical records.