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AARP AARP States Wisconsin Voters

Ballot Prep: For Wisconsin Voters, Plan for a Busy 2024

Voting

Nov. 5 will find Rhonda Staats heading out the door so she can vote in person.

She could vote absentee rather than trek to her polling place. Staats, 69 and blind, will need help getting to the polls — and additional assistance finding the accessible voting booth.

But that’s exactly why Staats, a retired college health care ethics instructor from La Crosse, plans to do it in person: She’s determined to confirm for herself that accessible voting booths work as intended and that staff — required by law to help visually impaired citizens with the mechanics of voting — are on their game.

“Voting is important, and we should make it as easy as possible for voters,” says Staats.

As secure as possible, as well. Staats is an advocate of technology that affords visually impaired voters the ability to keep their votes private, instead of relying on sighted people to read and mark ballots on their behalf. (To find a guide to accessible voting procedures in the state, go to elections.wi.gov/voters/accessible-voting.)

For all Wisconsin residents, the process of voting this year might be routine — or it might be fraught with last-minute changes in procedure and location. That means it’s imperative for every Wisconsin voter to check the rules early and often, says Martha Cranley, the state director for AARP Wisconsin.

In late 2023, as this AARP story was being finalized, some aspects of the voting process in Wisconsin were still in contention. Even so, key election dates for 2024 have been set, enabling Wisconsin voters to begin sketching out their voting plans for a year that will include primary and general elections on the local, state and national levels.

Voters in 2024 could go to the polls four times. Early in the year will be a primary and general election for nonpartisan county and judicial positions. The spring election also includes voters’ preferences for the presidential primary election. The November election is preceded by the August primary to choose each party’s slate for partisan races, such as the state’s eight members of the U.S. House and one member of the U.S. Senate. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Cautions AARP’s Cranley: “Regardless of how many years you’ve been voting, make sure you have a voting plan with the latest information. Your district might change.”

Elections overseen by independent agency

As in many states, pandemic-era changes and partisan battles have heightened interest in the battleground state’s voting process. In 2020, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in the state by fewer than 21,000 votes — less than 1 percent, one of the nation’s tightest margins.

In 2022, the use of drop boxes to collect absentee ballots was thrown out by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Soon after that, the state’s election clerks were barred from curing absentee ballots by a ruling from a county circuit court. Those rulings came in advance of pivotal midterm elections.

Despite those legal controversies, Cranley says the state’s voting procedures are
trustworthy.

“Wisconsin has one of the best voting systems in the country,” Cranley says. “People can have confidence in the Wisconsin voting system because these are proven procedures.”

Elections in the state are overseen by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, an independent agency created in 2016 by the Wisconsin State Legislature to support more than 1,800 local clerks who put state election rules into action.

For her part, Staats says she has trust in the state’s voting system, even as she remains on the lookout for accessibility problems. She also stays focused on the civic responsibilities — and rewards — of making her voice heard.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest to be informed so they can make informed choices,” she says.

Joanne Cleaver, a North Carolina-based journalist, covers business, personal finance and other issues. She has written for the Bulletin since 2013.

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