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Posted on: September 4, 2020

Absentee Ballot Request Mailing Question and Answers

On September 1, 2020, the Wisconsin Elections Commission sent an informational mailer regarding voting options to 2.6 million registered voters across the state.  The mailer was unanimously approved by the bipartisan Commission and they directed staff to carry out the creating, printing, and distribution of this mailer.  The Commission determined that all registered voters who did not have an active request on file for the November General Election would receive the mailer. The mailer contained both an information sheet on all three ways a voter can cast their ballot for November and a blank absentee ballot request form.  

 

Wisconsin Elections Commission staff began receiving calls from voters who received the mailer on September 2, and clerks across the state of Wisconsin have reported receiving questions from voters as well. These questions fall into several general categories and we wanted to provide information regarding these issues so that clerks can better answer questions from voters and understand the impact of the mailer.  

Here are some examples of the general questions received:

Who authorized this mailing?

The members of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission voted unanimously to approve this mailing and directed staff to carry out the creation, printing and distribution of the mailing.

Why was it sent out to voters?

The Commission wanted to provide information on the different ways all Wisconsin voters can cast their ballots this fall far in advance of the election so voters have time to prepare and request an absentee ballot early, if that is their choice, so clerks will not be overwhelmed with last-minute requests. The mailer does not just focus on voting absentee by mail but outlines all three options a voter has to participate in the November General Election.  The mailing also contains a paper absentee request application for voters who do not have internet access and would like to request a ballot for November.

How was the mailing paid for?
   
Federal CARES Act funds were used to pay for it.  The Commission received roughly $7 million in CARES Act funds that could be used to cover COVID-related expenses for elections administration in 2020 and a portion of those funds was used to pay for the mailer.  

When was the data for this mailer created and why are voters who already have active absentee applications on file receive it?

The data set for this mailer needed to be created in June due to the lead time required by the state printing center to produce a mailing of this size.  This timeline means that voters who submitted an absentee request between early June and the September 1 mailing date receive this mailer even though they have a valid request on file.   If you received a mailer and have questions regarding the status of your absentee ballot, call the Wisconsin Elections Commission at (608)261-2028.

If voters received the mailing but already have an active absentee request on file, do they need to complete the form or do anything else?

No, they do not need to take any action as long as their application is in good standing.  

Where can voters confirm they have an active request on file?

Voters can confirm their request by looking up their information on MyVote using the absentee request status lookup tool: https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/ViewMyAbsenteeRequest.  If a voter doesn’t have access to a computer, they may call the Wisconsin Elections Commission at (608) 261-2028.

Should voters call their local Clerks about the mailer?

The mailer refers voters to the MyVote website for voting information, absentee requests and voter registration opportunities and only lists the WEC phone number for voter questions.  Voters are reaching out to their local election official, as their trusted source for information, but the contact information provided on the mailer was to the Commission staff who was responsible for the mailing.

This mailer is generating a lot of calls to clerks, but is it also providing any benefit?

Yes, traffic on MyVote Wisconsin has been heavy over the past few days.  In total, voters have made almost 20,000 online absentee requests through the website that do not require any additional data entry by local clerks.

How will I receive the absentee requests that are sent to the Wisconsin Elections Commision? 
 
WEC staff will perform data entry on requests received at the WEC office as long as the voter is registered and an address can be determined. Applications are entered in a “pending” status and must be reviewed by local clerks and be accepted or declined. For WisVote users, mailer pending applications are listed alongside MyVote pending applications. For clerks who do not directly access WisVote, applications will be emailed directly to the clerk to be processed or declined.  
 
What is the process with the pending requests? 
 
Managing absentee applications and ballots is a responsibility that rests solely with local clerks. WEC staff will data enter the requests in the state they are received, but it is up to the clerk to review the applications for completion and validity, along with validating that photo ID requirements have been met. Clerks should expect to receive requests where a photo ID is not provided or not valid.  
 
What happens when a request is declined? Who follows up with the voter? 
 
WEC staff will send letters to voters who submit requests that are declined by the clerk for reasons of insufficient photo ID or for failing to certify indefinitely confined status with a signature. If the voter has an email address on file, an email will be sent to the voter with the letter information as well.  
 
Should the local Clerk be receiving any of the paper absentee request forms from the mailer directly from voters?

The return envelope that was provided along with the mailer lists the WEC address as the return address.  Clerks may receive some of these forms from voters who independently choose to return the form to their local clerk rather than using the return envelope.  If complete, these requests will be processed like any other absentee application received from voters.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Wisconsin Elections Commission at (608)261-2028 or at elections@wi.gov with any questions you may have regarding this mailer.  

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