Student Voting Guide | Wisconsin

October 28, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Wisconsin.  If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voter guide for the state where you attend school.  If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated October 28, 2014.


You may register to vote if you will be 18 by the next general election.[1] If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote.  If you think you might be affected, you should contact your local election officials.

Wisconsin allows voters to register at the polls.[2] You can also register by mail if your registration form is postmarked by the third Wednesday before the elections (for Tuesday elections, this will be 20 days before the election).[3] Fillable registration forms are available online in English, Spanish and Hmong. You can also use Wisconsin’s voter information website to directly enter your registration information online; but you will still have to print and mail your application.  Finally, you can register in person at your municipal clerk’s office until the close of business on the Friday before the election.[4] You must live in Wisconsin for at least 28 days before Election Day in order to vote in Wisconsin;[5] however, if you moved to Wisconsin less than 28 days before the election, you may still cast a ballot for President and Vice President.[6]

Proof of Residency.  You must provide proof of residency when you register to vote and when you move and re-register.[7]

Your proof of residency can be a Wisconsin driver’s license, non-driver’s ID, or any other Wisconsin-issued ID card or license; an employee ID if it has a photo on it; a property tax bill; a residential lease (unless you’re registering by mail); a utility bill (of various types) dated within 90 days; a bank statement; a paycheck; or a government check or other document.[8]  Any document you show must have your current name and residential address.[9] The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board provides a list of further examples (other, unlisted documents may still qualify) of documents that may be provided.[10]

You may also present a college/university ID with a photograph if you also have a fee payment receipt issued within nine months of the election, or if your school submits a list of students living in university housing to the local election official.[11]


All otherwise eligible students may register to vote in Wisconsin as long as they have resided at their address for at least 28 consecutive days before the election.[12]

At School. Wisconsin law clearly gives students the right to register and vote where they attend school.[13] Generally, your residency is considered to be where you currently live “without any present intention to move.”[14] Elections officials are not allowed to consider student status when determining your eligibility to vote.[15]

At Home. Students who lived in Wisconsin before moving elsewhere to attend school, and who wish to establish or keep their Wisconsin voting residency (i.e., at their parents’ Wisconsin address), should have no problem doing so unless they have already registered to vote in another state. Wisconsin allows students to keep their voting residency even if they move away to attend school,[16] and the only way you will lose this residency is by establishing residency in a new state. Voting in another state will be considered an abandonment of your Wisconsin residency.[17] If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to Wisconsin with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register in Wisconsin.

Challenges to Residency. Your registration can be challenged before the election by another registered voter.[18] You will receive notice of the challenge and can appear before election officials to contest the challenge.[19] Your eligibility to vote can also be challenged at the polls by another voter[20] or a poll worker,[21] but only if that person has personal knowledge that you are ineligible to vote and takes an oath regarding the reasons that person has knowledge you are ineligible. In either type of challenge, if the poll worker or voter swears under oath as to your ineligibility, you will be asked to take an oath and answer questions pertaining to your eligibility.[22]

If you take the oath and provide adequate answers to all the questions, you must be allowed to vote a challenged ballot.[23] When the votes are canvassed for your election jurisdiction, the board of canvassers will consider the challenge and make a determination.[24] You have the opportunity to appeal the determination.[25]


As of October 2014, Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement is currently subject to ongoing litigation. Please consult with your local election official to verify the requirement’s current status. The following is in effect for the November 4, 2014 general election:

Most Wisconsin voters do not need to show ID when voting. Note that if you are not registered to vote, or if you have moved since you last registered, you must show proof of residence to register to vote (see “Registration” section above for details and deadlines).

If you are a first-time Wisconsin voter who registered by mail before April 2014, and election officials could not verify your identifying numbers (your driver’s license or ID number or the last four digits of your Social Security number), you will have to provide proof of identification, either at the polls or anytime before Election Day.[26] If you are in this category but do not provide identification at the polls, you will be able to submit a provisional ballot.

Absentee Voting

Any registered Wisconsin voter may vote absentee.[27] The mail-in absentee application is available on the website of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, or you may request an absentee ballot in person at the office of the municipal clerk.[28] The municipal clerk must receive your application by 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday before Election Day if you mail, email or fax your request. If requesting an absentee ballot in person at the clerk’s office, the application can only be made starting the third Monday before the election and no later than 7:00 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.[29] Applications may only be received Monday to Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.[30]

Any completed ballot returned by hand or private delivery carrier must arrive at your local clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day.[31] If you put your completed absentee ballot in the U.S. mail, it must be postmarked by Election Day and received by your municipal clerk no later than 4:00 p.m. on the Friday after the election.[32] Your absentee ballot must be witnessed by another adult U.S. citizen.[33] If you are a first-time voter who registered to vote by mail, you must include a copy of your proof of residency with your ballot.[34] Currently, Wisconsin allows in-person absentee voting at the municipal clerk’s office ending at the close of business on the Friday before the election.[35] Check with your local election clerk for available days and hours.

Early Voting

Currently, the only way to vote early in Wisconsin is by absentee ballot. You may vote absentee in person at your municipal clerk’s office until the close of business on the Friday before the election,[36] or you may mail in your absentee ballot so that it is postmarked by Election Day and received by your municipal clerk no later than 4:00 p.m. on the Friday after the election.[37]  Any completed ballot returned by hand or private delivery carrier must arrive at your local clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day.  See the “Absentee Voting” section, above, for more information. 

Last updated October 28, 2014

[1] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.05.

[2] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.55.

[3] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.28(1).

[4] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.29.

[5] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.02(2).

[6] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.15.

[7] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.34; Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.55(2)(b).

[8] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.34.

[9] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.34.

[11] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.34.

[12] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.10(4).

[13] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.10(4).

[14] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.10(1).

[15] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.10(12).

[16] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.10(5).

[17] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.10(10).

[18] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.48(1)(a).

[19] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.48(1)(b).

[20] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.925.

[21] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.92.

[22] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.48(1)(b) (registration challenge); §6.92 (challenge at the polls by inspector); § 6.925 (challenge at the polls by elector).

[23] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.94.

[24] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.95.

[25] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.95 (appeals taken pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 9.01). 

[26] 42 U.S.C. § 15483(b). 

[27] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.20; 6.85.

[28] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.86.

[29] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.86(1)(b).

[30] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.86(1)(b).

[31] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.87(6).

[32] Absentee Voting, Wis. Gen. Accountability Bd., (last visited Aug. 9, 2014). 

[33] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.87(4)(b)(1).

[34] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.87(4)(b)(1).

[35] Absentee Voting, Wis. Gen. Accountability Bd., (last visited Aug. 9, 2014).  You can locate your local county clerk at the following website: Directory of Wisconsin Clerks, Wis. Gen. Accountability Bd., (last visited Aug. 9, 2014).

[36] Absentee Voting, Wis. Gen. Accountability Bd., (last visited Aug. 9, 2014). 

[37] Wis. Stat. Ann. § 6.87(6).