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Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008

It's Already Election Day

Early absentee voting has begun

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Technically, Wisconsin is not an early voting state.

But eligible voters can cast absentee ballots before Nov. 4, when the state is expecting a record number of voters to turn up at polling places. In fact, absentee voting begins this week, both by mail and in person at municipal offices around the state.

To ensure that voting goes smoothly this fall, Kyle Richmond, public information officer for the Government Accountability Board, said voters should be patient and prepared.Richmond suggests the following tips:

Consider your eligibility to vote. On Election Day, will you be 18 years old or older? Are you a U.S. citizen? If you’ve committed a felony, have you served your entire sentence, probation and/or parole? On Nov. 4, will you have been a resident of the state of Wisconsin for at least 10 days? If so, you can vote in Wisconsin.

Check your registration status before Nov. 4. The state has implemented a voter database that anyone can access at vpa.wi.gov. (If you don’t have Internet access, call your municipal clerk or local election commission.) If you aren’t in the system but you have voted in recent elections, or if your personal record contains errors, contact your local municipal clerk and correct it. If you live in the city of Milwaukee, contact the Milwaukee Election Commission at 286-3491.

The voter database will also provide the location of your polling place, which may have changed since the last election.

Re-register if you haven’t voted for five years or if you have moved or changed your name since you last voted. Municipalities have purged their voter rolls of inactive voters, so if you haven’t voted since 2003, you probably need to re-register. And if you have changed your name or moved since the last time you voted—even if you moved within the city limits—you’ll need to register at your current address. Registration forms can be accessed at the Government Accountability Board’s Web site at elections.state.wi.us.

Register before Election Day. You can register to vote now, either by mail (before Oct. 15), at your local municipal clerk’s office or election office (before Nov. 3), or at a Milwaukee Public Library (before Oct. 15). Registration forms can be downloaded at elections.state.wi.us.

Wisconsin doesn’t require a photo ID to vote, but you will have to provide your valid Wisconsin driver’s license number or state-issued ID number to register to vote. Your ID must show your current name and address and be valid on Election Day. If you don’t have a driver’s license or state ID, you can provide the last four digits of your Social Security number.

If you wait to register at the polls on Election Day, not only will you have to face long lines, but you’ll have to provide your valid Wisconsin driver’s license number or state ID number, if you have one. If you don’t have a license or ID, then you can use the last four digits of your Social Security number. If your driver’s license or ID does not have your current name and address, then you must show a document proving your residence—such as a utility bill with your correct address.

Vote now with an absentee ballot. You can request an absentee ballot by going to elections.state.wi.us and clicking on “voter information” and “frequently asked questions” or by calling your municipal clerk or election commission. Ballots must be returned in person or by mail by Nov. 4. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 30. City of Milwaukee voters can cast an inperson absentee ballot at the Zeidler Municipal Building, 830 N. Market St. (Go to www.milwaukee.gov/election for hours of operation.) Voters living in other municipalities should contact their municipal clerk for instructions.

Be cool. Yes, you can wear your favorite Obama T-shirt or McCain button to the polls. But you can’t engage in what’s called “electioneering” or cause a disturbance— otherwise known as trying to sway another voter or getting into a fight with a prospective voter. And you can’t hand out campaign literature or try to influence other voters within 100 feet of a polling place. So if you want to persuade your fellow citizens to vote for your favorite candidate, do it now, long before you go to the polls.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.