Election Year Survival Toolkit: Preparing to Vote

Hello, fellow citizens.

As most of you already know, 2024 is a big election year. Even-numbered years see shifts in political representation at all levels of government, and this year includes arguably the most hyped-up political position in the world – President of the United States.

In modern culture, presidential races have turned into year-long ordeals, with combative debates, aggressive campaign ads, and a deluge of unwanted texts, emails, and phone calls. The sheer amount of information not only available, but being forced upon us, is overwhelming.

Over the next several months, the Election Year Survival Toolkit will provide you with advice for ensuring a pain-free voting experience, fishing reliable information out of a sea of sources, and quieting the ever-present static of political background noise.

With the Spring Election and Presidential Preference Vote rapidly approaching on April 2, the series starts off with instructions for preparing to vote. If you want your voting experience to be simple and stress-free, it’s best to plan ahead. Here’s how.

Registering

Registering to vote may sound daunting, but in most cases it’s pretty simple.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission outlines the four options available to Wisconsin residents:

Online. Up to 20 days before the election. Voters who have a valid State of Wisconsin Driver License or State of Wisconsin ID card issued by the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can register to vote online at myvote.wi.gov.

By mail. Up to 20 days before the election. Registration forms should be mailed to your municipal clerk. You can start your voter registration form online at myvote.wi.gov. Your form must be printed, signed, and mailed or delivered to your municipal clerk. If you are registering by mail, you can use any of the forms of proof of residence except a residential lease.

In the municipal clerk’s office. You may register in-person in your municipal clerk’s office up until the Friday before the election at 5:00 p.m. or close of business, whichever is later.

At the polling place on Election Day. You may register at the polls on Election Day.

When registering to vote, you will need to show proof of residence. Find a full list of acceptable documents here.

Know What’s on Your Ballot

Once you’re registered to vote, you can look up what will be on your ballot. Sample ballots are typically available 47 days before federal contests and 21 days before state and local contests. Knowing what is on your ballot before going to the polls allows you to research candidates and be prepared to weigh in on any referendums.

While you probably know who you support for highly publicized elections, it’s hard to vote for state and local contests with no preparation. Candidates for contests like school board, circuit court judge, and district supervisor don’t represent political parties. There is nothing on the ballot indicating their platform or experience.

Referendums are likewise difficult to decide on if you first encounter them in a polling booth. They usually contain complicated legalese and are presented with no context. Researching ahead of time lets you know why the referendum is being presented and what action, if any, will be taken if it passes.

When researching local candidates and referendums, you can find information from your local news sources – television news, newspapers, radio shows, etc. Look for sources that interview all of the candidates, not just a few, and that ask each candidate for the same information.

Election Day

If you plan ahead, voting on election day can be a quick, easy process.

Before election day, double-check your registration status and polling place. You can do this at MyVoteWi.Gov. Click on My Voter Info to make sure your address is up-to-date and confirm your polling place, hours, and ward number.

On election day, you must bring an acceptable photo ID to the polling place. This can be a valid Wisconsin driver license or Wisconsin state ID card, or any of the documents on this list. If you are also registering to vote on election day, you’ll need proof of residence, as previously discussed.

Finally, plan what time of day you will vote. The busiest times are usually from 7-8 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., and 5-7 p.m. If you go at an off time, you might get in and out in 5 minutes. If you go over your lunch break, it’s going to take longer.

Absentee Voting

My Vote Wisconsin indicates that every registered Wisconsin voter has the ability to request an absentee ballot. You can request one by visiting MyVoteWi.Gov or submitting an application to your municipal clerk by mail, fax, email, or in person. Absentee ballots may be returned by mail or in person by 8 p.m. on election day. In-Person Absentee Voting for City of Eau Claire residents will be available in the parking lot at City Hall, 203. S. Farwell Street, beginning Tuesday March 19, 2024 and will be available weekdays through March 29, 2024. Hours have not been confirmed yet; visit the city elections site for updates.

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