KEY POINTS

  • Wisconsin was a key swing state in 2016
  • The state elections commission approved sending applications for absentee ballots to 80% of the state's 3.4 million registered voters
  • For the April primary, 1 million absentee ballots were cast

As President Trump ramps up rhetoric against mail-in voting, Wisconsin, a key swing state in 2016, has become the latest to decide to send applications for absentee ballots to voters for the Nov. 3 general election. The Wisconsin Elections Commission, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, agreed unanimously to send applications to 2.7 million registered voters who have not yet requested one.

Interest in mail-in voting has increased amid the coronavirus pandemic, with voters fearful of the contracting the virus by standing in long lines at crowded precincts. The state saw absentee balloting increase to 1 million for its April primary, an election the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court refused to allow Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to postpone in a lawsuit filed by GOP lawmakers.

About 528,000 Wisconsin voters already have requested absentee ballots for November, and the state estimates 158,000 registered voters have moved since they last cast ballots.

Trump last week threatened to withhold federal funding from Michigan and California for taking similar action.

The move followed a series of Trump rants against the idea. Trump claims without any evidence widespread mail-in voting would lead to stolen ballots and vote fraud despite studies that indicate states that already conduct their elections by the method have experienced little, if any, trouble.

Trump’s allegations prompted Twitter to tag two of his tweets with fact-check labels, enraging the president, who plans to sign an executive order aimed at limiting immunity from libel suits social media platforms currently enjoy.

Wisconsin is planning to use $2.3 million of the $7.3 million it received from federal COVID-19 funding to pay for the process.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission voted Wednesday to send 80% of the state’s 3.4 million registered voters an absentee ballot application accompanied by a letter and provide information on how to request a ballot online from the MyVote Wisconsin website. The commission has until June to come up with the wording for the letter.

Democrats said they feared no bipartisan agreement would be reached on the letter’s wording.

"The Republicans are better at voting on election day than are the Democrats, and the Democrats are better at using mail absentee votes than the Republicans are," Republican Commissioner Bob Spindell  said. "Are you afraid to put in this letter that there are a couple of other ways of voting in this thing? I don’t see any problem whatsoever on this letter as long as those topics are covered appropriately."

Nearly 20 states and the District of Columbia mailed absentee ballot applications to voters for their primaries, but it was unclear how many would do so for the general elections. Five states conduct all of their elections by mail.