The Nov. 3 election may be about a month away, but now is the time to consider how to vote to make sure it counts, election officials said.
In Wisconsin, voters have a few options: voting absentee by mail, voting in person during the two weeks leading up to the election and voting in person at the polls on Election Day.
In a pandemic, with the number of positive cases of COVID-19 climbing, election officials said they now have the experience to make in-person voting on Election Day safe. Since the start of the pandemic, three elections have already been held in northern Wisconsin.
“We kind of know how to do it now, and I think everyone’s prepared for that,” said Douglas County Clerk Susan Sandvick. “With the number of people voting absentee, there won’t be as many people at the polls, but I think it’s going to be busy regardless.”
It’s always been legal to vote by absentee ballot in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Election Commission. Every registered Wisconsin voter has the right to vote with an absentee ballot for any reason.
Voting is well underway in Douglas County and across the state.
According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, nearly 1.2 million ballots have been mailed to voters statewide, and more than 395,000 had been returned as of 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 1. Douglas County municipal clerks have sent out more than 8,200 ballots and have already received more than 3,700 returned ballots.
“They are coming back fast,” Sandvick said.
“So far we’ve sent out 5,130 ballots and we’ve received 2,700 of them back already,” Superior City Clerk Terri Kalan said Tuesday, Sept. 29. “Then we get requests, anywhere from 75 to 100 a day that are going out. It’s busy.”
Wisconsin law allows voters to request a ballot through Oct. 29, but local clerks recommend people request their ballots now to assure they get one in time to cast their vote.
The U.S. Postal Service recommends requesting the ballot at least 15 days before the deadline to return it. Kalan said she could get the ballot out up to a week before the election, but recommends people drop their voted ballot in the drop box in front of the Government Center.
Drop boxes are also available for voters in Lake Nebagamon, Lakeside, Poplar and the village of Solon Springs, with others planning to get them installed as soon as they can be delivered.
Diane Nelson, Brule town clerk, expected the drop box to be delivered this week and hoped to have it installed by this weekend.
Tamara Johnson, Bennett town clerk, said voters can use the locked mailbox at the town hall until the drop box arrives around mid-October.
“I would have liked to have had it sooner, but they were back-ordered,” Johnson said.
In the village of Superior, voters can drop their ballot in the payment box or the slot in Clerk Marsha Wick’s door until the box arrives near the end of the month. People have told Wick they feel more confident dropping off their absentee ballots, she said.
While some towns and villages don’t have drop boxes available, some clerks say people can still drop off their ballot by appointment, during office hours, at the polls on Election Day, and even at their homes.
Laurie Dolsen, Oakland town clerk, said people can make an appointment with her or use the locked mailbox to return their ballot.
People have been using the mail slot at the Oliver Village Hall to drop off their ballots all year, Clerk Julie Abraham said.
Still, Kalan recommends people request a ballot as soon as possible if they plan to vote absentee.
“We have in-office voting that starts Oct. 20, so we have that on top of sending ballots,” Kalan said.
In-person absentee voting runs through Nov. 1 in Wisconsin.
To register to vote by Oct. 14, or to request an absentee ballot, go to myvote.wi.gov.
To find out if their municipality has a drop box or option to drop off their ballot, people should call their local clerks. A complete list of all the municipalities in Douglas County, including contact information for local officials, can be found at douglascountywi.org.