Elections Commission Could Send Absentee Ballot Forms To All Wisconsin Voters

Proposal Aims To Prepare State For Another Surge In Absentee Voting

Superior has a drop box for absentee ballots
Superior has a drop box for absentee ballots outside the city’s government center polling location. Danielle Kaeding/WPR

Wisconsin’s Elections Commission could vote Wednesday to send absentee ballot request forms to all registered voters to brace for a surge in mail-in voting for November’s election.

Staff at the commission is recommending that the state spend $2.1 million on the mailings, which would come from Wisconsin’s share of grant money in March’s federal coronavirus relief package. Spending the money would require the support of at least four members of the six-member commission.

According to a memo prepared by staff ahead of the vote, the funding would pay for absentee ballot applications for the 2.7 million registered voters who haven’t already requested them.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Wisconsin saw a surge of absentee voting in the April election, with 62 percent of all voters casting ballots by mail according to a report released this week. That trend is expected to continue in the November election, when voter turnout could be roughly twice as high.

Staff is also recommending that the state spend $2.6 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to help local governments offset their postage costs for mailing absentee ballots. Another $500,000 would go toward sanitation supplies. If all staff recommendations are approved, the state would spend $5.3 million in federal funding.

The commission is made up of three Republican and three Democratic appointees, meaning a bipartisan vote is required to spend the funding.

Wednesday’s meeting comes just two days after a coalition of voters sued in federal court to try to force the state to send absentee ballot requests to all voters. That same lawsuit also asked a federal judge to “take all appropriate actions” to ensure that in-person voting can be safely conducted.