Voters who mail in their absentee ballots have an earlier deadline to do so this year under a new state law that took effect last month. Under the law the absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8, in order to count. Previously, mail-in absentee ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day and received by a clerk’s office by 4 p.m. on the next Friday. The new law is one of a handful of changes to voting rules that could trip up some of the half-million to a million people in the state who only turn out to vote once every four years for presidential elections. The most substantial change for them will be the new voter ID requirement, which critics fear will cause long lines on Election Day and result in some eligible voters being turned away at the polls. Supporters say the requirement will prevent voter fraud, though incidents of illegal voter impersonation are exceptionally rare.
The new deadline for absentee ballots could catch the most stalwart voters by surprise because it wasn’t in effect during the August primary. The law was enacted in March, but it wasn’t set to take effect until September.
Elections officials are advising people to mail their ballots at least six days ahead of time, said Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.
Reid Magney, spokesman for the state Elections Commission, urged mail-in absentee voters to send in their ballots as soon as possible, and definitely no later than Nov. 1. “The post office can take up to one week to deliver mail now, and their vote is too valuable to risk to a late mailing because it has to be at the clerk’s office on Election Day,” Magney said.