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Early voting to start in Wisconsin for president, constitutional amendments

Voting
Posted at 12:13 PM, Mar 18, 2024

MADISON (AP) — Early voting begins Tuesday in Wisconsin for a host of local races, two proposed constitutional amendments that could alter how future elections are run and the now anticlimactic presidential primary.

Here are some things to know:

PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY

Wisconsin is one of a handful of closely divided battleground states that will likely determine who wins the presidential election in November. But its late presidential primary of April 2 makes it moot this cycle, as both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have already won enough states to secure the needed number of delegates to be their parties' presumptive nominees.

Even so, some liberals in Wisconsin are organizing to cast a protest vote over Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war. The effort to vote "uncommitted," which has appeared in several states, raises more questions about whether a small but significant number of Democrats angry at Biden might abandon him in November.

Biden and his surrogates have been frequent visitors to Wisconsin in recent months, highlighting the state's importance in the November election. Trump, however, has not been to Wisconsin yet this year as he's focused on earlier primary states.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

Other than the presidential primaries, the only statewide issue on the April 2 ballot is on a pair of constitutional amendments. Both were offered by Republicans in the Legislature and opposed by Democrats. One would make it illegal to accept private grant money to help administer state elections. Another would allow only election officials designated by law to administer elections. If a majority of voters approve, the amendments would be added to the state's constitution.

WHAT ELSE IS ON THE BALLOT

Local elections for a wide variety of offices from school board to judge and mayor to city council are on the ballot. Voters can go to the state elections commission website to find out what is on their particular ballot.

"I always encourage people to vote early because you never know what's going to happen on Election Day," Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said on Monday.

VOTING RULES

Rules for voters in the April election are largely unchanged from the 2022 midterm.

Voters who requested absentee ballots by mail should have received them by now. Those are due back by the close of polls on April 2.

Voters who didn't request a ballot but still wish to vote early can do so in person starting Tuesday. The hours and locations for early, in-person absentee voting vary by community. The last possible day for early in-person voting is March 31, but it could be earlier in some places.

A February court ruling loosened the requirements for what is acceptable for a witness address on absentee ballots returned by mail. But voters who cast their absentee ballots early in person don't have to worry about that because election officials serve as the witness.

DROP BOXES

Absentee ballot drop boxes remain illegal in Wisconsin under a state Supreme Court ruling from 2022. However, that could change before the August primary and November election. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is hearing arguments on a new challenge to the drop box ban on May 13.

Voters who return their ballot by mail can track its progress at myvote.wi.gov.

WHAT ABOUT REDISTRICTING?

New legislative districts will be in effect for the August primary and November general election. Republicans have wide majorities in both the state Assembly and Senate currently under maps they drew. But the new maps, proposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, make the districts more competitive, which is expected to bolster turnout.