2021 - 2022 LEGISLATURE
March 16, 2021 - Introduced by Senators Stroebel, Darling, Roth,
Bradley, Nass, Ballweg and Felzkowski, cosponsored by Representatives
Gundrum, Rozar, Edming, Spiros, Krug, Neylon, Brooks, Murphy, Jagler,
Allen, Knodl and Wichgers. Referred to Committee on Elections, Election
Process Reform and Ethics.
1An Act to repeal
6.24 (4) (c), 6.86 (2m), 6.87 (4) (b) 2. and 6.87 (4) (b) 3.; to
2renumber and amend
6.86 (1) (ar); to amend
6.18, 6.30 (5), 6.86 (1) (a) 3., 6.86 3
(1) (ac), 6.86 (1) (b), 6.86 (2) (a), 6.86 (2) (b), 6.87 (1), 6.87 (2), 6.87 (4) (b) 1., 6.87 4
(4) (b) 5., 6.875 (3) (a), 6.875 (4) (a) and 7.15 (1) (j); and to create
6.86 (1) (as), 5
6.86 (2) (am), 6.86 (8), 6.88 (4) and 7.15 (1) (jj) of the statutes; relating to:
6absentee ballot applications, unsolicited mailing or transmission of absentee
7ballot applications and absentee ballots, canvassing absentee ballots,
8electronic voter registration, and providing a penalty.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill makes a number of changes to the laws relating to absentee ballots in
1. Applications for absentee ballots
Subject to an exception for certain voters at residential care facilities and
qualified retirement homes, current law prohibits a municipal clerk from issuing an
absentee ballot to a voter, including in person at the municipal clerk's office, unless
the voter submits a written application for the absentee ballot. Current law does not
prescribe a specific form of written application for requesting absentee ballots.
The bill requires the Elections Commission to prescribe the form and
instructions of the absentee ballot application. The bill also requires the absentee
ballot application to be separate and distinct from the certificate envelope in which
voters must seal and submit absentee ballots, the outer portion of which includes
certifications of both the voter and a witness. Additionally, the bill requires that the
application require the voter to certify facts establishing that he or she is eligible to
vote in the election and must include at least all of the following information:
a. The voter's municipality and county of residence.
b. The voter's name, date of birth, and contact information, including as
applicable the voter's telephone number, fax number, and e-mail address.
c. The street address of the voter's legal voting residence.
d. The election at which the voter intends to vote absentee.
e. Whether the voter is a military or overseas voter.
f. The voter's confidential identification serial number if the voter has obtained
a confidential listing for purposes of voting.
g. The lawful method by which the voter prefers to receive the absentee ballot.
h. Whether the voter is a hospitalized voter.
The bill provides that any municipal clerk issuing an absentee ballot without
having received a completed application on the form prescribed by the Elections
Commission under the bill that contains the voter's original written signature, a copy
of the voter's original written signature if transmitted by facsimile transmission, or
the voter's electronic signature if submitted in Portable Document Format (PDF) by
e-mail, or the signature of a person authorized by law to sign on the elector's behalf,
is subject to a Class I felony, which is punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000 or
imprisonment not to exceed three years and six months, or both.
2. Automatic receipt of absentee ballots
Current law allows the following voters to receive absentee ballots
automatically for each election for specified periods:
a. Indefinitely confined voters. Current law allows a voter who identifies
himself or herself as indefinitely confined because of age, physical illness, infirmity,
or disability to have, by signing a statement to that effect, an absentee ballot sent to
the voter automatically every election. If an indefinitely confined voter fails to vote
in an election, the municipal clerk must remove the voter from the indefinitely
confined list if the voter does not renew his or her indefinitely confined status after
30-days' notice. Additionally, the clerk must remove a voter from the list if the clerk
receives reliable information indicating the voter is no longer indefinitely confined.
b. Overseas voters. Certain overseas voters registered to vote in Wisconsin may
apply for automatic receipt of absentee ballots for all national elections occurring
during the year of application.
c. Military voters. Service members who are on active duty and as a result are
absent from their residence in Wisconsin may apply for automatic receipt of absentee
ballots for all elections occurring during the year of application, or as otherwise
requested by the service member.
d. All other voters. Any other voter eligible to vote absentee in Wisconsin may
apply for automatic receipt of absentee ballots for all elections occurring in the voter's
municipality during the year of application.
The bill eliminates the option for indefinitely confined voters, overseas voters,
and all other voters, other than military voters, to receive an absentee ballot
automatically for any election. However, the bill authorizes indefinitely confined
voters to request and receive absentee ballot applications, rather than absentee
ballots, automatically for each election. Active duty service members may continue
to request automatic receipt of absentee ballots as provided under current law.
3. Photo ID requirements for absentee voters
Current law requires most voters applying to vote absentee in an election to
submit proof of identification, such as a driver's license, with their absentee ballot
application. The municipal clerk must verify that the name on the proof of
identification conforms to the name on the voter's absentee ballot application.
However, current law exempts from that proof of identification requirement certain
indefinitely confined voters, as described above; overseas voters; and voters who
received an absentee ballot from the municipal clerk by mail for a previous election,
had provided proof of identification with that ballot, and had not changed their name
or address since providing that proof of identification.
This bill eliminates those three exemptions. The bill leaves in place all of the
following exemptions under current law:
a. Active duty military voters are exempt from having to submit proof of
identification with the absentee ballot application.
b. Certain individuals who are the victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault,
or stalking may obtain a confidential listing and keep their identities private for
purposes of voting. If an individual applies and qualifies for a confidential listing,
he or she is issued a unique identification serial number by the Elections
Commission. When applying for an absentee ballot, an individual who has obtained
a confidential listing may submit that unique identification serial number in lieu of
providing proof of identification.
c. Residents of residential care facilities or qualified retirement homes who, in
lieu of providing a copy of proof of identification with their absentee ballot, may
submit a statement signed by special voting deputies, or by others if no special voting
deputies are available, that includes certain information and certifications required
d. An individual whose driver's license is revoked and who has been required
to surrender his or her license within 60 days before an election may enclose a copy
of the citation or notice in lieu of submitting his or her driver's license for purposes
of applying for an absentee ballot.
4. Unsolicited mailing or transmission of absentee ballot applications and
The bill prohibits any municipal or county clerk or municipal or county board
of election commissioners, and any person acting on behalf of the Elections
Commission, from sending or transmitting an absentee ballot application or an
absentee ballot to a voter for purposes of voting in an election unless the voter applies
for the application or ballot as provided by law. Any person violating that prohibition
is guilty of a Class I felony.
5. Notices concerning the canvass of absentee ballots
Under the bill, once the canvassing of absentee ballots begins with respect to
any election, the municipal clerk must hourly post, at his or her office and on the
Internet, a statement showing the number of absentee ballots that the clerk has
mailed or transmitted to voters, the number of absentee ballots that have been
returned to the clerk, the number of absentee ballots counted, and the number of
absentee ballots remaining to be counted.
Electronic voter registrations
Under current law, an individual holding a valid driver's license or
identification card issued by the Department of Transportation and who is eligible
to vote in Wisconsin may register electronically. The Elections Commission
maintains an Internet site that is used by voting-eligible individuals for purposes
of electronic registration, currently titled MyVote Wisconsin. Current law requires
the commission to provide a secure registration form on that Internet site that
enables the individual to enter and update the information necessary for purposes
of voter registration. Upon the voter's authorization, the commission obtains the
individual's electronic signature from DOT for purposes of authenticating the
information provided by the individual.
The bill requires the Elections Commission to maintain a version of the
completed application, including the voter's electronic signature, in PDF. The
commission must make the PDF version of the completed application available to the
municipal clerk or board of election commissioners of the municipality where the
Because this bill creates a new crime or revises a penalty for an existing crime,
the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties may be requested to prepare a
For further information see the state and local fiscal estimate, which will be
printed as an appendix to this bill.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
6.18 of the statutes is amended to read:
26.18 Former residents.
If ineligible to qualify as an elector in the state to 3
which the elector has moved, any former qualified Wisconsin elector may vote an 4
absentee ballot in the ward of the elector's prior residence in any presidential election 5
occurring within 24 months after leaving Wisconsin by requesting an application
form and returning it, properly executed, to the municipal clerk of the elector's prior 2
Wisconsin residence. When requesting an application form for an absentee ballot, 3
the applicant shall specify the applicant's eligibility for only the presidential ballot. 4
Unless the applicant is exempted from providing proof of identification under s. 6.87
5(4) (b) 2. or 3., or the applicant
is a military or overseas
elector, the elector shall 6
enclose a copy of his or her proof of identification or any authorized substitute 7
document with his or her application. The municipal clerk shall verify that the name 8
on the proof of identification conforms to the name on the application. The clerk shall 9
not issue a ballot to an elector who is required to enclose a copy of proof of 10
identification or an authorized substitute document with his or her application 11
unless the copy is enclosed and the proof is verified by the clerk. The application form 12
shall require the following information and be in substantially the following form:
This form shall be returned to the municipal clerk's office. Application must be 14
received in sufficient time for ballots to be mailed and returned prior to any 15
presidential election at which applicant wishes to vote. Complete all statements in 16