“Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.”
–Justin Dart, disability civil rights leader
As a voter with a disability, you may consider a wider set of needs and issues when you vote. Voting for local, state and federal leaders during this election year lets you share your perspective and make your goals known. For the coming elections this can be done privately, and with more accessibility than ever before.
National Disability Voters Registration Week is July 16-20. The Council is teaming up with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, The Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition and the Madison City Clerk’s Office to call attention to the week. We will host press events, develop a postcard about voter registration, and distribute a press packet to local media. We will also have a voter registration table at the Disability Pride Festival in Madison on Saturday, July 28, and hold various other pop-up voter registration events throughout the state.
This fall there are two important elections: the partisan primary on August 14 and the fall general election on November 6. Look over our Five Steps for Accessible Voting and make sure you have what you will need to make your vote count.
- Have a Photo ID Ready
You will need to present a photo identification (ID) card to register to vote, and to cast your ballot. No separate Voter ID card is necessary. A photo ID can be a Wisconsin driver’s license or a Wisconsin state ID card. If your license or ID card has expired, it must have expired since the last general election, which was November 8, 2016.
Did you know you could get a Wisconsin state ID card free? Just take your birth certificate, social security card, and a proof of residence document, such as a utility bill, to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain your state ID card. If you recently got a new ID or driver’s license but do not yet have your card, you can use the receipt provided by your local DMV for 45 days.
Other forms of photo ID are also acceptable for voting and there is a complete list at myvote.wi.gov. You can use a military ID, a United States passport book or card, or an identification card issued by a federally recognized American Indian tribe in Wisconsin. If you are a student at a Wisconsin college, university or technical school, you can use your student ID to vote. Bring along a document proving that you currently attend the school, such as a fee statement.
- Register to Vote
All voters in Wisconsin need to register to vote if they are voting for the first time. If you have already voted in an election but have changed your name or moved you will need to update your information.
You will need your photo ID and a proof of residence document with you when you register. You can register online 20 or more days before the election in which you wish to vote at myvote.wi.gov. If there are fewer than 20 days before the next election in which you wish to vote, register at your local clerk’s office. You can also register to vote at the polls on election day. We recommend registering before election day because it is often crowded and the whole experience will take longer. If you do decide to register on election day, you will need both your proof of residence document and your photo ID.
Proof of residence is a document that contains your name and address, proving where you live. It can be a valid, unexpired driver’s license, a Wisconsin ID, a document issued by a unit of government such as your birth certificate or passport, a utility bill (good up to 90 days after issuance), or a bank statement (but not a credit card statement). Don’t have one of these? People who experience homelessness can submit documentation saying they are homeless but reside in Wisconsin. Not sure if your documentation qualifies? Contact the Wisconsin elections commission and ask. They will be happy to answer your questions.
- Consider Voting Absentee
You can absentee vote two different ways. You can request to have a ballot sent to you, or you can vote early at your clerk’s office. Voting absentee at the clerk’s office works well if you have reliable transportation on a day other than election day.
To have a ballot sent to you, first make sure you are registered to vote. Then, allowing time for your request to be received by the clerk no later than 5 pm on the Thursday before the election, make a request in writing to your city clerk online at myvote.wi.gov, or by mail, email or fax, along with a copy of your photo ID specifying how you would like to receive your ballot. You can request an absentee ballot for one specific election or for an entire calendar year. Indefinitely confined voters can arrange to receive a ballot automatically for every election.
You will receive instructions for completing and returning your absentee ballot. Follow the instructions carefully. You will need to include a signature from a witness with your ballot. If you received your ballot by mail, postage and an envelope is included with it, otherwise you supply your own. Complete the ballot and envelope following instructions; if left incomplete or incorrectly filled out, you will need to go to your clerk’s office to fix it before your vote can be counted. Your absentee ballot must be postmarked by election day.
- Get to The Polls
Go to myvote.wi.gov to find your polling place. Finding transportation to the polls on election days can be a huge barrier for people who cannot, or choose not to, drive a vehicle. Here are some ideas from the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition to help you overcome this barrier.
- If your town has a bus or cab service, ask if they provide free or reduced-price rides on election days.
- If your schedule is flexible, you could ask a neighbor, friend or family member to share a ride.
- Contact the Wisconsin Association of Mobility Managers at wi-mm.org to find a mobility manager in your area.
- Find out if your faith community is offering rides.
- Call VoteRiders toll-free at 844-338-8743 to see if there are volunteers in your area offering rides.
- Call your local Independent Living Center or Aging and Disability Resource Center at 608-266-2536 (statewide) for ideas on specific transportation options in your community or visit https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/disabilities/physical/ilcs-contact.htm or https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/adrc/consumer/index.htm
- If ride share services are available in your area, ask if they offer free or reduced rides to the polls on election days. They may have accessible transportation options.
- Contact your local political party to see if they offer free rides.
- If your city has a timebank, consider trading an hour of your time for a ride to the polls.
- Check with non-partisan organizations including Wisconsin League of Women Voters 608-256-0827 (statewide), Wisconsin American Civil Liberties Union 608-285-2141 (statewide), or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 608-274-3997.
- Check if a college campus near you offers free transportation to the polls.
- Arrive and Cast Your Ballot
When you get to your polling location, you will need to register if you have not already done so, or update your information if you have changed your name and address since the last time you registered.
A poll worker will ask you to state your name and address, and look you up in the poll book. Show your photo ID to the poll worker. They will ask you to sign the poll book, verifying that the information about you is accurate. You can sign using your signature or by simply making an X, then you will receive a ballot.
There are many options for casting your ballot. You can vote privately and securely using an accessible voting machine, such as the ExpressVote or AutoMARK. These machines simply mark your ballot; they do not record or store any information you enter into them. You can use headphones or turn the volume down so no one else can hear your vote. Just ask your poll worker to direct you to the accessible voting equipment that is available at every polling place.
You can also bring a trusted friend or family member to mark your ballot for you, or ask a poll worker to mark your ballot. If you have trouble walking and would rather have a poll worker come out to your vehicle, voting curbside could be a good way to go. Just be sure to contact your polling place to let them know you want to vote curbside and tell them when you plan to arrive. That helps ensure someone will come out to your vehicle promptly.
Each of the five steps offers choices that can make voting easier. Make it your goal to vote in this fall’s elections.
Where to Learn More
Watch your inbox and the Council’s social media for specific information about National Disability Voter Registration Week in Wisconsin. The website of the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition at disabilityvote.org has details about pop-up voter registration events and other news to help increase the political power of people with disabilities.
Check your voter registration status at myvote.wi.gov.
If you have questions about the voting process, call the Wisconsin Elections Commission Helpdesk at 608-261-2028 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access the complete elections manual at elections.wi.gov.