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Governor files brief calling on state Supreme Court to allow ballot drop boxes


Governor files brief calling on state Supreme Court to allow ballot drop boxes

Apr 02, 2024 | 4:07 pm ET
By Erik Gunn
Governor files brief calling on state Supreme Court to allow ballot drop boxes
A ballot drop box in Madison, Wisconsin, that has been put out of commission. The city posted a sign explaining why it can no longer be used after a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision banned most absentee ballot drop boxes. (Wisconsin Examiner photo)

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is asking the state Supreme Court to roll back its 2022 ruling that prohibited using drop boxes to receive absentee ballots in elections.

Drop boxes to collect absentee ballots had been used in communities across the state for several years. Their use increased in the 2020 election in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing recommendations. A 2021 Legislative Audit Bureau report found that at least 240 municipal clerks across the state had used drop boxes.

After then-President Donald Trump lost Wisconsin by 20,000 votes to former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, the Trump campaign and allies began challenging the use of drop boxes and making baseless complaints that they had enabled fraud — complaints that were rejected in numerous court challenges.

The state Supreme Court voted 4-3 in July 2022 to bar the use of drop boxes, ruling in a case brought by the right-wing law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL).

Voting rights advocates argued that banning drop boxes would needlessly make voting more difficult, particularly for people with disabilities.

The ideological makeup of the court shifted after the April 2023 election of Janet Protasiewicz, and Priorities USA, a liberal voting rights group, filed a lawsuit in 2024 to challenge the 2022 ruling. The court agreed March 12 to take the case and has set oral arguments for May 13.

The brief filed Tuesday on Evers’ behalf states that the 2022 ban by the former majority created a prohibition that was nowhere in Wisconsin election law. That decision “rewrote the text of the law through a circuitous analysis that ended with new, confusing rules for election administration,” the brief asserts.

Municipal clerks who administer elections cover jurisdictions ranging from fewer than two dozen voters to more than 300,000, the brief argues. The 2022 decision “imposed one-size-fits-all, judicially created constraints on these municipal clerks’ authority to administer elections in a manner that is both responsive to the needs of their unique communities and compliant with the law,” it states.

“The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy,” the brief adds. “Such an important right warrants every effort on this Court’s part to ensure that the best and most accurate reading of statutes relating to its exercise prevails.”