(Image from the Madison city clerk's office)
Absentee ballots are sent and received through local election clerks. (Image from the Madison city clerk's office)

Before the Nov. 8 ballots are counted and winners declared, here are important dates for Wisconsin voters who want their voices to be heard.

Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8. It’s when around 2 million people across the state will decide who serves as governor, one of Wisconsin’s US senators, attorney general, state legislators, county officers, and more. It’s the most important date of the election season, but it’s far from the only one voters should keep in mind when it comes to making a plan to vote. Here’s what to know.

October 19 (Wednesday) – Deadline to register by mail or online

Your voter registration form—which can be downloaded from the Wisconsin Elections Commission website at MyVote.WI.gov—plus proof of residence must be postmarked to your municipal clerk no later than October 19. 

If you have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or state-issued ID card (from the Department of Motor Vehicles) you can also register to vote online at the MyVote website. 

If you prefer to register in-person you can register in-person in your municipal clerk’s office up until the Friday before the election (Nov. 4) or at your polling place on Election Day.

October 25 (Tuesday) – In-person absentee voting begins

It’s the first day that local election clerks can schedule office hours for voters who want to fill out an absentee ballot in-person, drop it in a ballot box, and not worry about standing in line on Nov. 8. 

States set their own rules for when and how voters can cast a ballot prior to Election Day. Wisconsin used to have a large window of availability for in-person early absentee voting, but the Republican-controlled legislature has shrunk it to a 13-day period, starting 14 days before the election.

If you want to vote using this method, start by checking the hours that your local clerk has set aside for early in-person voting, as they vary widely. You can get your clerk’s information by typing your address into the MyVote.WI.gov website. Be sure to bring a valid ID.

November 1 (Tuesday) – Last call for returning ballots by mail

This date is strongly suggested as the last day to return a ballot by mail, as the US Postal Service and state elections officials ask voters to give the post office at least seven days to ensure all ballots arrive at local clerks’ offices before Election Day.

November 3-4 – Deadline to request an absentee ballot

State law lists a 5 p.m. deadline on Nov. 3 for requesting an absentee ballot for those who are regular and overseas voters, and a 5 p.m. deadline on Nov. 4 for requesting an absentee ballot for those who are indefinitely confined or in the military. However, given the time required to return a ballot, it is easy to see why elections experts urge voters to make those requests far in advance of this date.

The MyVote website has a special page with instructions and links for military and permanent overseas voters.

As noted above, 5 p.m. Nov. 4 is also the final day for in-person voter registration at local clerks’ offices. After that, the next opportunity to register is at the polls on Election Day, with proper ID and proof of residence.

November 6 (Sunday) – Last day of in-person absentee voting 

The 13th and final day for in-person absentee balloting is the Sunday before the election, but only for municipalities that allow it to be done on a weekend. There’s a chance your municipality cuts off in-person absentee voting on the preceding Friday or Saturday. Contact your local elections clerk for details or visit myvote.wi.gov to get contact information for your local clerk’s office to find out your local early voting timeframe.

November 8 (Tuesday) – Election Day

7 a.m. – Polls open.

Even though absentee ballots will have been arriving for weeks prior, local clerks cannot begin opening them until the in-person polls open at 7 a.m.

5 p.m. – Deadline for voters who are in a hospital to request a ballot be brought to them by an appointed agent if they are hospitalized in the seven days preceding the election.  Hospitalized electors may request an absentee ballot between Nov. 1 and Nov. 8 at 5 p.m.

If a voter is in the military and on active duty away from their residence, their absentee ballot request must be received by their municipal clerk no later than 5:00 p.m. on Nov. 8. 8 p.m. – Polls close.  Anyone who arrives at their polling place by 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote as long as they stay in line. Absentee ballots must arrive by 8 p.m. to be counted. Visit myvote.wi.gov to find your polling place.