By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The election is nearly here, and Milwaukee is gearing up. Earlier this week, Mayor Tom Barrett, Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg and Milwaukee Public Library Director and City Librarian Joan Johnson announced that absentee ballot drop boxes would be established throughout the city.
According to the press release, 290,000 city residents are estimated to cast a ballot in this year’s presidential election, of that about 52% are expected to cast their ballot absentee by mail. In response, there will be 15 absentee ballot drop boxes throughout the city including City Hall, 200 E. Wells St., the Election Commission Warehouse, 1901 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. and 13 Milwaukee Public Library branches.
During a press conference held Thursday, Sept. 10, Barrett addressed the reason behind the drop boxes. The Milwaukee Election Commission is receiving an unprecedented number of requests for absentee ballots, Barrett said.
“Minimizing person-to-person public contact is still universally the best public health guidance and for that reason absentee voting whether done through mail or through these drop boxes is the safest way to vote and it is a key component of our safe vote initiative,” Barrett said.
Barrett said that the campaign is focusing on making sure people vote and feel safe doing so, while also making sure that all votes count. People who vote absentee will be able to confirm their ballot was received within 24-hours by going to myvote.wi.gov.
Wisconsin is a no-excuse absentee ballot state, Barrett explained, which means any eligible voter can request an absentee ballot, no explanation needed.
“If you’re concerned about your health or your schedule or just want to vote in the comfort and privacy of your own house, request your absentee ballot today,” he said. “I encourage all voters to plan and prepare for this upcoming critical election.”
Johnson noted that the libraries are pleased to be a part of this election.
“Milwaukee Public Library is very excited to partner with the mayor’s office, the health department and the election commission to ensure that all Milwaukeeans who are eligible to vote will vote in the November General Election,” Johnson said.
“Libraries are enduring institutions that embody the principles of democracy,” Johnson added.
Milwaukee Public Library has a long history of supporting elections, she said. For decades the staff has helped residents register to vote and libraries have served as polling places.
“Civic literacy is an important pillar of our work at the libraries, and we are proud to expand our role in democracy by providing voter assistance, permanent and secure absentee ballot drop off, in-person early voting and Election Day voting,” Johnson said, adding that the library wants residents to make a plan to vote and know that libraries are here to help.
Woodall-Vogg also talked more on the security of the ballot drop boxes. If something should happen, the commission will work to connect with voters and utilize the media to get the word out. If there is a problem, for example if a voter didn’t receive a ballot, the commission will cancel the ballot and reissue a new one.
“It would be a felony to tamper with any ballots and historically there’s not been much evidence to say that it’s not secure to use the drop boxes,” Woodall-Vogg said.
She added that the locations chosen have video surveillance and that City Hall and the warehouse will be receiving additional cameras.
Voters can drop their ballots off at any location, 24-hours a day until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3 when the polls close. The boxes are under video surveillance. Every day, the Election Commission staff will retrieve and prepare the ballots to be processed on Election Day. To request a ballot, track your ballot or register to vote, go to myvote.wi.gov.