Here’s Everything You Need to Know as the Polls Open in Wisconsin



By Pat Kreitlow

November 2, 2020

Election Day runs from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Join in. All the cool kids are doing it.

It’s come down to this: In-person early voting is over. The window for mailing an absentee ballot has closed. For anyone who isn’t still holding onto an absentee ballot, the only remaining option to be part of Tuesday’s election involves a voting booth at a local polling place.

Those polling stations open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. Anyone still in line at 8 p.m. will still be allowed to come in and vote.

Before You Go

• You can check your voter registration status at the Wisconsin Election Commission’s user-friendly site:

• If you need to know where your polling place is located, check the MyVote page for a quick answer.

Election Day Arrives and You Forgot to Register. Here’s What to Do.

You Need Proper Identification to Vote. Here’s What Counts for Voter ID.

Wisconsin Ballots Differ by District. Here’s What Will Be on Yours.

• Before you go, remember You’re Not Allowed to Wear Political Clothing at the Polls.

• Face masks? Not required, but a really, really, really good idea.

• Have you moved in the last 28 days? Don’t try to vote at your new neighborhood’s polling place. Earlier this year a court let stand a move by the Republican-led state Legislature that requires newly-moved Wisconsinites to vote at their old address for candidates who no longer represent them.

• If you’re still holding onto an absentee ballot, do not mail it; you’ll be too late thanks to a Republican effort to have the US Supreme Court kill an absentee ballot deadline extension that had been ordered by a federal judge. The polling station is also the best option for those voters who still have an absentee ballot. Think of it as a Disney World “FastPass.” Skip the line of those waiting to vote and drop off your sealed envelope at the check-in table.

After You Vote

Want to pay attention to something besides the presidential race? Here Are 10 Wisconsin Legislative Races to Keep an Eye on Election Night.

Want to see results at the local level? The elections commission website has links to every county’s election results page or homepage. 

Above all else, be patient. Absentee ballots always get carefully counted anyway, but thanks to the pandemic there will be more ballots to open and count than ever before. 

Each state has its own timeline to complete its count. In Wisconsin, all of the ballots are supposed to be tabulated by 4 p.m. Wednesday and clerks are not supposed to take a break until all of the counting is complete. There’s no taking off at 3 a.m. for a nap and resuming the process.

That requirement normally goes unnoticed, but it will make for an unusual 20-hour stretch of counting in Outagamie and Calumet counties where a small technical misprint means 13,500 ballots will have to be counted by hand. The counties asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court last week for a possible deadline extension, but the conservative-led court denied their plea for relief.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission created a short video to explain the process of making sure every ballot is calculated and certified.

Declaring Victory—Real or Smokescreen?

The presidential elections of 2000 and 2016 have cured newsrooms of the desire to be first to declare a victor in a close contest. In both cases, despite a clear national consensus of US voters for the Democratic candidates, it was razor-thin margins at the state level that gave the White House to the Republican candidates who didn’t get the most total votes. 

The “decision desks” of news outlets are going to be more deliberative than ever before calling a race. UpNorthNews will use national resources through Courier Newsroom and Reuters, which is part of the National Election Pool consortium, along with CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, and Edison Research.

President Donald Trump has reportedly made plans to charge into the information vacuum between the time the polls close and the final votes are counted. Axios, quoting three unnamed White House sources, reports Trump will declare victory based on an Election Day in-person vote that will favor him in some key states, and then try to use the courts to sow doubt in the yet-to-be-counted but still-completely-legal absentee votes that appear to be heavily in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Bottom line: Do your part to get that famous “I Voted!” sticker. Be patient. And wait for outside experts to report all the votes rather than relying on the word of any politician who’s behind in the polls, declaring victory prematurely, and trying to invalidate legal ballots.


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.



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