The Wisconsin Elections Commission is encouraging residents who are concerned about being exposed to the new coronavirus to request an absentee ballot for the spring election and the presidential primary Tuesday, April 7. The commission recommends Wisconsinites register and request to vote absentee by Wednesday.
"If you are worried about getting to the polls on Election Day, make sure you are registered to vote at your current address and with your current name and request an absentee ballot as soon as possible," Wisconsin’s chief elections official, Meagan Wolfe, said in a statement.
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The commission took action to protect voters who are at high risk of contracting the virus. According to the state Department of Health Services, people with pre-existing respiratory conditions and weakened immune systems, and who are over the age of 60 are high risk.
Wisconsin has had "no excuse" absentee voting since 2000, said Reid Magney, public information officer for the commission.
"That means that for any reason you want, you can get an absentee ballot," Magney explained. "You don’t have to be out of town, you don’t have to be sick, you don’t have to be anything, if you want it you can get it."
Wisconsin state law requires mailed voter registration forms to be postmarked before the third Wednesday before the election. Wednesday is the last day for voters to register by mail or online. Voters who miss the deadline can register at their local municipal clerk’s office until Friday, April 3 or at a polling place on Election Day. Registered voters can request an absent ballot until Thursday, April 2, but the commission is urging residents not to wait because of possible mail delays.
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Magney said spring elections in Wisconsin usually have lower turnout, but the commission hopes the presidential election will bring out more voters.
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"A presidential election we tend to get about 70 percent turnout of the voting age population," Magney said. "For an April election, depending upon what’s on the ballot, turnout might range from 20 to 30 percent of the voting age population."
The commission has not considered other changes to the voting process at this time but are in communication with DHS and other state leaders if additional changes need to be made.
"The commission and WEC staff recognize that this is an evolving situation and will continue to rely on the guidance of public health officials," Wolfe said. "We all stand ready to adjust as directed to ensure the safety of clerks, poll workers and voters."
As of Saturday, there are 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. The first patient in the state with COVID-19 has recovered.