The Larson Report

A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson



Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

The November 3rd election is just five weeks away. In-person early voting begins October 20th, and hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots have already been mailed to voters across Wisconsin. The COVID-19 pandemic caused much confusion and likely disenfranchised thousands this April. We cannot afford to have that happen again.

I put together this Larson Report to ensure as many people as possible have access to quality voting information that’s free of partisanship or spin. Wherever you stand on the ideological spectrum, I urge you to exercise your constitutional right and vote. For those of you who are ineligible to vote, feel free to share this email with your loved ones who can. I’ve divided this report into three sections: Get Ready, Get Voting, and Stay Informed. 

Even if you’re a seasoned voter, you’ll want to read the last section, as this election is likely to be a bit different than previous years.


Get Ready

Eligibility

The first thing you need to do in order to vote is be eligible. In Wisconsin, that means…

  • You must be 18 years of age by November 3rd, 2020

  • You must be a United States citizen

  • You must not have a current felony conviction (If you have completed extended supervision, a.k.a. you’re “off paper,” you ARE eligible to vote!)

Registration

So you’re an eligible voter. That’s great! Now get registered. Here’s how:

  • Visit myvote.wi.gov, click “Register to Vote,” and follow the instructions on-screen.

  • To register online, you must have a valid Wisconsin ID card. If you don’t have one, you can still register by mail. Due to recent changes within the US Postal Service, it is highly recommended that you register online if you are able to do so

  • For assistance registering by phone, dial 866-VOTE-WIS, (866-868-3947)

Residency for Voting Purposes

You must register and vote at your current home address, with one key exception. If you move or plan to move within 28 days of November 3rd, you must register from and vote at your old address. For example, if you moved on October 31st from Milwaukee to Racine, you would be ineligible to vote in Racine for this election. Your options are to travel to Milwaukee and vote there, or to vote absentee instead. If you plan to move more than 28 days from the election, you should wait to register and/or request an absentee ballot until after you have moved.


Get Voting

Choose your method

Once you’re registered, it’s time to choose your voting method. You have three main options to choose from, all of which require you to have a photo ID on hand. (If you don’t have a current photo ID, or aren’t sure if your ID will work, CLICK HERE for a rundown on acceptable IDs.) There are pros and cons to each of the 3 voting methods, which I will list below:

Vote In-person on Election Day

7am to 8pm on Tuesday, November 3rd

PROS

  1. You get to watch your ballot get fed into the machine
  2. There are poll workers available to help you if needed
  3. You don’t need to find a witness or upload a photo of your ID
  4. You can register to vote in-person at the same time

CONS

  1. If you have an emergency, are traveling, or have transportation/mobility issues, you may miss your chance to vote!
  2. You increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19 (though poll workers make every effort to implement safety measures)

Vote Early In-person

Starts October 20th. Hours/locations vary by municipality

PROS
  1. All the same PROs as voting on election day, PLUS...
  2. You have more days/times to choose from, including weekends
  3. Less risk of COVID-19 exposure due to fewer people present at any given time

CONS

  1. Fewer locations than Election Day
  2. Polling place may be miles away from your home

Vote Absentee

By mail or by ballot drop-off

PROS

  1. Return postage is FREE
  2. You can complete your ballot any time of day
  3. Lowest risk of COVID-19 exposure
  4. Many cities offer 24-hour drop-boxes for completed absentee ballots

CONS

  1. You need a witness to sign your ballot
  2. You must upload a photo of your ID to request an absentee ballot online, or include a photocopy of your ID if requesting a ballot by mail
  3. There are no poll workers to help you complete your ballot
  4. When mailing your ballot back, it must be RECEIVED by 8pm on Election Day, potentially shortening the time you have to complete your ballot.

Make your plan

However you choose to cast your vote, make sure you have a plan in place. Like other things in life, from planning a wedding to remembering to mow the lawn, you’re more likely to follow through if you’ve thought through all the steps first.

In-person voting

If voting in-person, make sure you have the time and transportation you need to make it happen. Your employer is required by law to give you time off of work in order to vote. Not sure where your polling location is? CLICK HERE to find out! Also, make sure you #MaskUp when you make your way to the polls. (Please note: early voting locations may differ from Election Day locations. Visit your municipal clerk’s website to find out where you can vote early.) If transportation is an issue for you, organizations like Voteriders may be able to help!

Absentee voting

If voting absentee, the first thing you need to do is decide how you will return your ballot. If you want to return it manually, contact your municipal clerk to find out where you can do so. If returning by mail, be sure to give it at least 7 days to arrive (mail by October 27th). Remember, postage is free, so you don’t need a stamp to vote. Make sure you have a witness sign your ballot! If you can’t find a witness, there are witnesses available at all early voting locations.


Stay Informed

This election is unique for a variety of reasons. As such, once you’ve done your part by registering to vote and casting your ballot, there are some other things you’ll want to be aware of. By being as informed as possible, you can avoid falling for the bevy of misinformation that’s sure to be making the rounds on social media from now until results are certified after the election.

We likely won't know who won on election night

The most important thing to remember for this election is that it is highly unlikely that a winner in the presidential race will be announced on November 3rd. Unprecedented demand for absentee ballots caused by the pandemic, combined with rules in many states (including Wisconsin) that prohibit ballots from being processed before Election Day, means it could take days, even weeks, for all the votes to be tallied. As much as we want to have timely results, it is critical that election officials across the country take their time and count every vote. In the meantime, we are all going to need to have a little patience.

The race doesn't end when someone says they've won

Whether it’s for President, Congress, or the Wisconsin State Legislature, many races could be very close. If one candidate is ahead after the Election Day votes have been tallied, they may choose to declare victory while absentee ballots are still being counted. This does not mean the race is over. As a rule, until the board of elections (in Wisconsin, the Elections Commission) certifies the results or the opposing candidate concedes, the election is NOT over. In fact, it is very likely that several races, perhaps even the presidency, could end up being decided in the courts.

Don't believe everything you see or hear

With so much at stake in this election, and with the amount of attention that will be paid to new developments as they emerge, there will be some people who choose to spread false or misleading information. Most of this will be spread online, but some of it may reach more reputable news outlets as they compete to be the first to break a big story. 

It will be more important than ever to consider the source and be critical of the information we take in. What is their track record? What is their interest in the outcome? How is the information being presented? We’re all going to have to be on our toes to avoid believing and spreading falsehoods within our networks. For my part, I will do my best to share accurate and timely information as I receive it.


 
Thank you for taking the time to read this report. As always, feel free to contact my office if you have any questions, or to request any additional information. No matter what challenges may lie before us, as long as I am in office I will fight for free and fair elections, and will do everything I can to ensure the right to vote is respected for everyone. Whatever you do, be sure to VOTE BY NOVEMBER 3rd, and encourage your loved ones to do the same!

In service,

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 MADISON OFFICE: 20 South, State Capitol
PHONE: (608) 266-7505
FAX: (608) 282-3547
EMAIL: Sen.Larson@legis.wisconsin.gov
U.S. MAIL: P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882
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