And the winner is — absentee voting
And the winner is — absentee voting

And the winner is — absentee voting

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The biggest winner in Wisconsin’s April 7 election wasn’t Joe Biden defeating Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary, or Jill Karofsky securing a seat on the state Supreme Court.

It was absentee voting.

About 1.16 million people chose to cast absentee ballots — mostly by mail, though some filled them out early in person. That was nearly three times as many voters as the 395,000 who filled out ballots at the polls on Election Day. It also was the most absentee votes cast in modern state history.

The result was impressive: a relatively safe election — despite a pandemic — because fewer people went to the polls at the same time, limiting potential exposure to the novel and potentially deadly coronavirus.

Now Wisconsin must repeat and expand on that success for the Nov. 3 general election. Twice as many people are expected to vote this fall because of a close race for president. Congressional, legislative and district attorney candidates will be on ballots, too, as well as school referendums.

As many people as possible should vote absentee as a precaution. And the sooner absentee ballots are received and returned, the less likely an avalanche of late ballots will arrive at the offices of municipal clerks, complicating and potentially delaying the results on Election Day.

The partisan Wisconsin Elections Commission on Wednesday thankfully agreed to send absentee ballot request forms to some 2.7 million registered voters across the state. But the commission split 3-3 when discussing the wording of the mailing. We hope the commission can find consensus on that soon.

Regardless, voters don’t have to wait for the Elections Commission to remind them how and when they can vote absentee. Voters can request absentee ballots now by going to myvote.wi.gov for both the Aug. 11 primary and Nov. 3 election.

Please do so if you haven’t already.

Though Wisconsin has mostly kept the novel coronavirus at bay, it could surge this fall, just as America is choosing its leaders. The United States surpassed 100,000 deaths to COVID-19 on Wednesday, an ominous milestone and warning.

This isn’t the time for partisan bickering over the commission’s letter. It’s time to set political differences aside and encourage as many people as possible to vote from home.

So go to myvote.wi.gov today. Even if you already went to the website to get a ballot for the spring election, you may need to do so again for this fall. It only takes a few minutes. Go to myvote-wi.gov and click on “Vote Absentee.” Enter your name and birth date to search for your information. Then click on “Request Absentee Ballot.”

An Elections Commission review of the spring election showed that nearly 90% of requested absentee ballots were returned and counted — a similar percent to past elections. So the system mostly worked, with scant evidence of fraud. It can and must work even better this November.

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