The US  Supreme Court ruled 5-3 today to no allow changes to the election laws in Wisconsin to allow more time to send absentee ballots in. The result of this ruling is that all absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election must arrive by 8 PM on election day. The court believed that the courts should not be deciding on and changing election law due to the pandemic. 

"The Constitution provides that state legislatures — not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, not other state officials — bear primary responsibility for setting election rules," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion. 

The dissenting opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan did not find this argument convincing since the Wisconsin legislature has not been in session since April, and therefore was not capable of making a ruling on the extended timeline.

Absentee ballots in the spring primary were given an extended timeline and needed to be postmarked by the closing of the polls. This caused some confusion as some of the absentee ballots were not postmarked. 

Voting advocates have been stressing that it is important to return all absentee ballots early enough to arrive by election day. Practically this means that all ballots being mailed should be put in the mail by tomorrow, Oct. 27 or it is possible they will not arrive on time. An alternative is to return the ballots in-person to the local voting office or by putting the ballot in a drop box provided for ballot return.

The Wisconsin Election Commission issued an advisory today outlining the upcoming election deadlines and what voters must do to have their ballots counted.

“More than 1.4 million Wisconsin voters have requested absentee ballots by mail, but only 1 million have been recorded as returned,” said Meagan Wolfe, administrator for the Wisconsin Elections Commission. “Your ballot must arrive by Election Day to be counted and the US Postal Service says it can take up to seven days for a letter to arrive, so if you’re planning to mail your ballot back, you should mail it back as soon as possible.”

Here are some key deadlines and facts to remember for the upcoming Presidential Election on November 3, 2020 – whether you’re voting by absentee ballot or in-person.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020:  Practical deadline for voters to return their mail absentee ballots to their municipal clerk’s office.  The US Postal Service recommends allowing one week for your completed absentee ballot to be delivered to your municipal clerk’s office. 


After this date, voters should find other options for returning their absentee ballot, which include delivering it to their municipal clerk’s office or a secure drop box if one is provided by their clerk.  Visit to find out if your clerk offers drop box.  Most voters can also deliver their ballot to their polling place by 8 p.m. on Election Day, but there are some exceptions. (See below.)


Tuesday is also the first day that hospitalized voters may appoint an agent to retrieve and deliver an absentee ballot from their municipal clerk’s office. The deadline for hospitalized voters to request and return their ballot is Election Day. More information is available here:


Thursday, October 29, 2020:  The legal deadline for most voters to request an absentee ballot by mail.  Wolfe said it is unrealistic for any voter to wait this late to request an absentee ballot and expect to receive it in time to return it by Election Day to be counted.


Friday is also the legal deadline for indefinitely confined voters to request to become permanent absentee voters, but Wolfe urged anyone needing this service not to wait.


Friday, October 30, 2020:  Final day to register to vote at your municipal clerk’s office.  Visit to find your local clerk’s contact information and hours of operation.


Sunday, November 1, 2020:  The last day that municipal clerks may offer in-person absentee voting in their office or a satellite location.  Most clerks only offer absentee voting in their office until Friday, October 30, and office hours vary by municipality.  Please visit to find your municipal clerk office’s contact information and learn more about absentee voting in-person for the upcoming election.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020:  Election Day. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and voters who are returning an absentee ballot to their polling place must get it there by 8 p.m.  Voters returning their ballot to the clerk’s office or a drop box should do so early in the day, so the clerk has enough time to send ballots to the proper location for counting by the 8 p.m. deadline.


There are 39 municipalities including Milwaukee and Green Bay that count absentee ballots at a central location.  Voters in those cities, villages and towns should check with their municipal clerk about where to return their ballots on Election Day.  A list of central count municipalities is available here:

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

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