Today, Monday July 30, is the first day Wisconsin voters can take advantage of early and absentee voting before the August 14 primaries. Voting early, either in person at municipal clerks’ offices or by requesting an absentee ballot, makes civic participation and exercising the right to vote something citizens can do in their own time and on their own terms.
But amidst some lively, competitive primary races, some voters in Wisconsin may be trying to find their right to vote among boxes and packing peanuts. Student voters in particular are navigating new changes to elections law that put primary election day right on the cusp of the start date for many new leases. College towns like Madison are abuzz with moving vans on August 14. Some students even find themselves very temporarily homeless as one lease ends on August 14 and the next one begins on August 15.
Act 75 was signed by Governor Walker on November 16, 2011 so that Wisconsin could comply with the Federal Military and Overseas Voters Act. In order to make sure military and overseas voters could receive and mail back ballots, the date of the primaries were bumped up in states across the nation. Act 75 also included an option for these voters to receive their ballots and instructions electronically. Democratic legislators tried to get electronic balloting options included in the law for all voters, but that effort failed. (More electronic options should be the future of voting: Wisconsin Election Protection issued their report on the June 5 Recall Election in which they recommended options for people to show proof of residence electronically.)
We’ve blogged before about how changes in the elections rules and calendars impact student voters. It is unfortunate that thousands student voters who want to participate in primary elections will be experiencing the major life disruptions that come with moving in the back-to-school season. Fortunately early/absentee voting is still an option. Remind your fellow Wisconsin citizens that they can vote in the primaries now. For those who moved to a new Wisconsin address after July 18, voters will have to vote in the polling place connected to where they last established residency.
The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation knows that citizens have the right to vote without barriers, misinformation or intimidation. We will continue to work to educate voters about their rights in order to counter the confusion, lack of clear information or the misinformation on the changes voting laws.