Wisconsin Supreme Court to revisit ruling that banned most ballot drop boxes

The oral arguments in this case will have major implications for the way the elections in 2024 in the battleground State are conducted.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Monday in an important case that determines the future of absentee voting drop boxes for the state’s battleground elections.

This case gives the liberal majority of the court the chance to overturn a ruling made by the court less than two year ago, when conservatives were in majority. That ruling significantly reduced the number absentee voting drop boxes throughout the state.

If the current liberal majority of 4-3 overturns this ruling, then the use of absentee voting drop boxes could be widespread for the upcoming Presidential election.

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Democrats and progressives from the state have filed numerous briefs urging the court not to uphold its decision of 2022. Conservative groups and Wisconsin Republican Party filed several briefs to support upholding current rules on drop boxes.

They make voting easier and more possible for people. Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin – the state branch of the nonpartisan government watchdog organization – said that’s why we support them. Common Cause Wisconsin has filed an amicus curiae brief in the case, urging the ruling of 2022 to be reversed.

He said that despite the claims and worries of election deniers and conspiracists, dropboxes were not used in a nefarious manner as they have claimed.

After the 2020 elections, former President Donald Trump, along with his allies, falsely claimed the use of drop-boxes for absentee votes led to widespread voter fraudulent.

Wisconsin GOP Chairman Brian Schimming said that his party, which filed an amicus brief, was concerned about the return to a greater use of drop-boxes. He cited “the potential for hijinks by Democrats” and “the safety of drop-boxes,” but added that “our main concern is that this law be reversed.”

He said that the law was constantly changing in this state, which would lead to “chaos” and “confusion” when voting.

Schimming stated that “I am not opposed to looking at the things differently, but we are six months from the election” and “we have Supreme Court members who feel like they’re the Second Legislature.”

In 2020, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (which oversees the state’s elections) implemented more lenient regulations regarding drop boxes. Wisconsin law doesn’t have any rules regarding the use of drop-boxes, which is why the legal situation has continued.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a decision of 4-3, ruled that Wisconsin voters who cast absentee votes would no longer have the option to place them in any box other than the offices where election clerks work.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission, which is under Republican control, does not have the authority to pass laws or policies regarding absentee voting drop boxes. Only the Wisconsin Legislature has that power.

The Democratic group Priorities USA, after liberals gained a majority in the court for the first 15 years in 2023, filed a suit to overturn a 2022 ruling that curtailed the use of drop-boxes, as well as other rules and restrictions pertaining to absentee balloting. After a Wisconsin trial judge narrowed down the case, the group appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court directly, bypassing lower appeals courts.

In March, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s liberal justices voted to accept the case. They agreed to only resolve if the 22-month old ruling was wrongly decided and not to address any other issues raised by the original lawsuit.

Priorities USA stated in court documents that the 2022 decision was wrongly made because Wisconsin law does not address the issue of dropboxes. The group admits that Wisconsin law does state that absentee votes must be returned in person or by mail, but it says that it is unclear whether absentee voters can also return their ballots to other locations than the clerk’s office.

The group stated in a document that “nothing prevents municipal officials from accepting ballots in locations other than their offices, including secure ballot drop boxes located elsewhere.”

The groups that are pushing to overturn the ruling say that the fact that the Court has taken up the case indicates that its liberal justices are concerned about the ruling of 2022 and will likely reverse it.

Heck, of Common Cause, said: “You shouldn’t prejudge the judges. But I would be surprised if the ruling was not overturned just because they took on the case.” “Three current progressive judges were vehemently against the ruling in 2022 and the newest addition Janet Protasiewicz has aligned herself with them so far.”