State Supreme Court restores absentee ballot drop boxes

The state Supreme Court today again allowed local clerks to use unstaffed absentee ballot drop boxes, restoring the option for voters months ahead of Wisconsin’s presidential race.

The 4-3 ruling reversed a 2022 decision by the former conservative majority that barred the use of drop boxes unless they were at a local clerk’s office. 

Writing for the majority, liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote that the 2022 decision was unsound in principle. She also noted today’s ruling doesn’t force any local clerk to use drop boxes. Rather, it confirmed what the majority held the law has always said, “that clerks may

lawfully utilize secure drop boxes in an exercise of their statutorily-conferred discretion.” 

The court in 2022 found state law didn’t expressly authorize drop boxes. Since then, liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz has joined the court, flipping ideological control. 

Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley, who wrote the 2022 ruling, ripped today’s decision as part of a pattern by the liberal majority to allow politics to guide its decisions. She linked it to a previous ruling this term to throw out GOP-drawn legislative maps.

“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,” she wrote. 

It’s unlikely absentee ballots will factor as heavily in this fall’s race as they did in 2020, when they accounted for 2 million of the 3.3 million votes cast as Dem Joe Biden beat Republican Donald Trump by less than 21,000 votes.

Still, more than 1,600 absentee ballots arrived at clerk’s offices after the deadline of election day in 2022, when drop boxes weren’t allowed. By comparison, 689 ballots arrived after the deadline for the 2020 election even though twice as many people voted absentee that fall, according to court records.

Read the decision.

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