Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstates ballot drop boxes for 2024 US elections News
Royalbroil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstates ballot drop boxes for 2024 US elections

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Friday to reinstate the use of secure ballot drop boxes for the 2024 US elections, reversing a prior ruling from 2022 by the court’s then-conservative majority that had banned this method for returning absentee ballots.

The appellants argued that the state Supreme Court wrongly decided a 2022 case that state law mandated that absentee ballots must be returned either by mail or in person directly to municipal clerks, thus eliminating the option for drop box returns across the state. There is nothing in Wisconsin state law that “prevents municipal clerks from agreeing to accept ballots at locations other than their own offices, including via secure ballot drop boxes placed elsewhere.”

Friday’s majority opinion, in a 4-3 decision, agreed with the appellants and held that the 2022 decision “was unsound in principle” and that Wisconsin law “allows the use of ballot drop boxes.” Delivering an absentee ballot in a drop box “constitutes delivery ‘to the municipal clerk'” within the meaning of state law, because these drop boxes are “set up, maintained, secured, and emptied by the municipal clerk.”

The conservative justices on the court criticized the decision, viewing it as a move by liberals to push a political agenda. In her dissent for the three conservative justices, Justice Rebecca Bradley drew a parallel between the recent decision and the court’s December 2023 ruling that overturned the state’s legislative maps saying, “The majority ends the term by loosening the legislature’s regulations governing the privilege of absentee voting in the hopes of tipping the scales in future elections.”

Wisconsin governor Tony Evers asked the court to reinstate the drop boxes, describing them as a “secure” method for delivering absentee ballots and fully protects “election integrity.” He praised Friday’s decision and promised to ensure the right for every eligible voter to cast their ballot safely and securely. Wisconsin state senator Chris Larson also said in a post on X that the ruling erased arbitrary limitations to exercising the right to vote.

Republican state legislators displayed mixed reactions to the decision. While some criticized it, others expressed their intention to concentrate on the upcoming elections. Senator Eric Wimberger directly criticized the opinion, but Representative Scott Krug, chair of the Assembly campaigns and elections committee, stated that complaining the decisions is not helpful and instead called upon his supporters to be an observer and work at the poll to provide oversight and accountability.

The court in 2022 granted an injunction against the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, contending that drop boxes for absentee ballots were not expressly authorized by the statute. The use of ballot box constituted an administrative rule that require the approval of the Wisconsin legislature.