How to change your vote if you've already voted for a candidate who has dropped out

Wisconsin law allows absentee voters to 'spoil' their ballots twice if the candidate they voted for bows out of the race prior to the election.

By Nathan Denzin

July 29, 2022

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Two touchscreen printed ballot voting machines, one with its screen covered, stand in a room with wood-paneled walls and plaques listing the names of donors, with a U.S. flag on a poll on the floor and a stack of signs reading Vote Here leaning against a concrete wall under a plate glass window.

Voting machines and signage are ready for early voting use at the Warner Park Community Recreation Center in Madison in advance of the state's partisan primary on Aug. 9, 2022. (Credit: Steven Potter / PBS Wisconsin)

With primaries for Wisconsin’s 2022 midterm elections quickly approaching, thousands of voters in the state have already cast their absentee ballots by mail or in person.

However, the exits of high-profile candidates like Sarah Godlewski, Alex Lasry and Tom Nelson in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, and Kevin Nicholson in the Republican primary for governor, means at least some of these voters cast ballots for candidates who are no longer in the race.

For residents who voted for a candidate who has since dropped out, election officials say it’s not too late to “spoil” their ballot and change their vote.

To void a ballot, voters need to contact their local clerk, either in person or by sending a message through the mail or email.

Once the clerk’s office receives the request and locates the returned ballot, their office writes “spoiled” at the top and makes a small tear in the envelope to ensure the ballot is not counted. After the original ballot is spoiled, the office will issue a new absentee ballot.

The deadline for spoiling an absentee ballot by mail is August 4 at 5 p.m. To spoil a ballot in person, the deadline is August 7.

A clerk’s office can only issue three ballots to a voter per state law. The original ballot sent is ballot number one, so it’s only possible to spoil a ballot twice.

Any candidates who have dropped out since the ballots were originally printed will still appear on the ballot.

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