City Cast

What You Need to Know About Voting in Madison

Hayley Sperling
Hayley Sperling
Posted on October 18, 2022   |   Updated on August 31

The election is Nov. 8 and you probably have some questions. We're here to help. Let's dive into every you need to know about voting in Madison.

Who can vote?

According to the law, to vote in an election you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, and have resided at your registration address for at least 28 consecutive days prior to the election.

Individuals who are on supervision, probation, or parole for a felony conviction are not eligible to vote. But if you’ve completed all the terms of your felony sentence (e.g. are off probation), you may vote.

What about students?

Out-of-state college students can vote either in their “home” state, or the state they attend school. Most University of Wisconsin students meet residence requirements to vote in Wisconsin. Just so we’re clear: you cannot vote twice in the same election.

It’s important to note that a Wiscard student ID is not a valid voter ID. But UW-Madison provides students with free voter ID cards upon request.

Image via Flickr user Phil Roeder

Registering to vote

Registering to vote in Wisconsin can be done in several ways. To register to vote, you’ll need a current and valid Wisconsin driver’s license or proof of residence documentation.

Proof of residence documents must show both your name and your current address. This can include bank statements, utility bills, and residential leases, to name a few. For more information on proof of residence documentation, check out this fact sheet from My Vote Wisconsin.

  • By mail: Registering by mail is a great option for those who do not have a current, valid Wisconsin Driver License or state ID card. To register by mail, all you need to do is fill out a voter registration form and mail it along with a proof of residence document to your city clerk. You can find your municipal clerk here.

    Madison residents can mail registration applications to:

    City Clerk's Office
    210 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Room 103
    Madison, WI 53703

    Mail-in registration can be done up to 20 days before an election. Mail-in registration must be postmarked no later than Oct. 19.
  • In person, before the election: Madison residents may register to vote at any City of Madison in-person absentee voting site (during absentee voting hours) with proof of address. This can be done until the close of absentee voting on the Friday before the election.

    You can see the full list of in-person absentee voting locations in Madison here.
  • Online: You can register to vote via the My Vote Wisconsin website if you have a valid, unexpired Wisconsin Driver License or state ID card. You’ll also need to make sure your name, date of birth, and address you plan to register with matches with the corresponding information on file with the Wisconsin DMV. If you need to update your information with the DMV, you can do that online here.

    Online registration can be done up to 20 days before an election. It will close at 11:59 p.m. Oct. 19.
  • At the polls:Wisconsin allows for same-day voter registration. You can either bring your completed registration forms to your polling place or fill out the forms there. Either way, you’ll still need proof of residence documents to register and proper photo ID to vote.

Where do I vote?

Enter your address here to find your polling place.

If you’ve moved later than 28 days before an election, you have to vote in your former ward or municipality.

What’s up with voter ID?

A photo ID is required for voting in Wisconsin. This rule has been in effect since April 2015. You’ll have to show an original copy of an acceptable photo ID to vote at your polling place.

Image via Bring it to the Ballot

What about early voting?

Early voting in Madison runs from Oct. 25 through Nov. 6. There are dozens of in-person absentee voting times and locations available across town. Check out the full list here.

Returning absentee ballots

Absentee ballots should be sent in using the pre-addressed, postage paid envelope included with your ballot packet.

USPS recommends mailing your ballot back at least 7 days before Election Day (but earlier is better!). A federal judge ruled in August that voters with disabilities may have someone else help mail their ballot or return it to the municipal clerk’s office for them.

In Madison, ballots can also be returned in person to the clerk's office or brought to your polling place on Election Day.

You’ll need to find a witness to sign your absentee ballot. This person is meant to verify that you filled out your own ballot. A witness could be a neighbor, spouse, friend, or family member, to name some examples. There aren’t many requirements when it comes to finding one but they must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old. Additionally, your witness cannot be a candidate on the ballot.

When returning your absentee ballot, make sure all information is filled out properly. In September, a Waukesha County Judge ruled clerks are not allowed to fill in missing information on absentee ballot witness certificates. If you leave off any of the required information, your ballot might not count, so pay close attention to the details.

What about those ballot boxes around town?

The short answer: Do not use them.

A Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling in July banned the use of most ballot dropboxes. Voters who requested an absentee ballot must return it by mail or deliver it in-person to local clerks.

In October, the City of Madison partnered with New York artist Jenny Holzer to turn the now-illegal ballot drop boxes into a statement against the "erosion" of democracy. All the boxes around the city are locked and should not be used.

Image via City of Madison

Voting accessibility

In Madison, the city takes specific steps to ensure all eligible voters can cast a ballot and that those ballots get counted. Election officials use the Disability Rights Wisconsin polling place checklist to make sure every Madison polling place is accessible.

Curbside voting is available at all polling locations, a poll worker just needs to be notified.

You are allowed to have assistance filling out your ballot with two exceptions: The person helping you cannot be your employer or your union agent.

For more information on voting accessibility, check out the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition.

Check out a sample ballot

Now you know what you need to vote, take a look at who you’ll be voting for. See your sample ballot here.

Want to know more about the candidates?

PBS Wisconsin has you covered with all of the candidates and their bios. Take a look at them all here.

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