Wisconsin Supreme Court Outlaws Election Drop Boxes, Ballot Harvesting
The Wisconsin Supreme Court outlawed the use of ballot drop boxes during elections, after their use skyrocketed in 2020 due to the pandemic.
In a 4-3 ruling along party lines, the court’s conservative majority also outlawed ballot harvesting – in which organizers return the completed ballots of voters to a clerk’s office, according to Reuters.
The decision ensures that drop boxes will not be in place for the state’s August primary election as well as November’s general election, when Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson will both seek re-election in crucial midterm races.
Republicans across the country have sought to limit the use of absentee ballots after the 2020 election…
Of note, former President Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by fewer than 25,000 votes out of 2.8 million cast, while Biden won the state in 2020 by fewer than 21,000 votes out of 3.2 million cast.
In its ruling, the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed a ruling from a lower court judge after the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a conservative group, sued the state’s elections commission on behalf of two voters, Reuters reports.
In 2020, the Commission approved the use of drop boxes as a pandemic resposne measure, which ballooned to 528 boxes across the state.
Justice Rebecca Bradley, however, wrote in the majority opinion that under state laws ballots must be returned to a clerk’s office or another designated site, and not an “inanimate object” such as an unstaffed drop box.
“Only the legislature may permit absentee voting via ballot drop boxes,” she wrote.
Dissenting was Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who was joined by the court’s two other liberals in saying that the decision was nothing more than an unjustified barrier to voting.
“Although it pays lip service to the import of the right to vote, the majority/lead opinion has the practical effect of making it more difficult to exercise it,” she wrote.
The dissent also argued that the decision to bar other people from returning ballots to clerks’ offices would primarily hurt homebound residents, including disabled and sick people.
In a statement, Evers said, “Today’s decision is another in a long line of Wisconsin Republicans’ successes to make it harder for Wisconsinites to exercise their right to vote, to undermine our free, fair, and secure elections, and to threaten our democracy.” -Reuters
The state’s top Republican assemblymember, Robin Vos, tweeted in response to the ruling: “Our next step has to be electing a new governor who will sign additional election reforms.”