The Wisconsin Supreme Court has held that using ballot drop boxes is illegal under state statutes.
According to the court’s majority opinion, issued Friday, absentee ballots must be returned by mail or personally delivered to the municipal clerk. There are exceptions for voters who are disabled or require assistance in submitting their ballots. However, if not under those exceptions, absentee ballots must be mailed or personally delivered directly to the municipality, not a drop box.
The case came about when two Wisconsin citizens filed a suit challenging the validity of two documents released by the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC). The documents authorized municipal clerks and local election officials to create ballot drop boxes for voters to drop their ballots in at any time before collection day. The WEC initiated the drop boxes in response to COVID-19 to allow voters to drop their ballots without attending the polls in person. The drop boxes allowed family members or any agent of the voter to return the ballot on the voter’s behalf.
The two challengers claimed that “drop boxes are illegal because a voter must personally mail or deliver in person the voter’s absentee ballot to the municipal clerk, not to an inanimate object.” Defending the drop boxes were, among others, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Disability Rights Wisconsin and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.
The state’s highest court concluded by stating that if Wisconsin wants to permit ballot drop boxes, it must do so through the legislature, not the WEC.