Wisconsin Supreme Court mulls legality of ballot drop boxes ahead of key elections

In a case that may ultimately vindicate concerns leveled by conservatives, including former President Donald Trump, about the integrity of the 2020 election, the Wisconsin Supreme Court last week heard arguments on the legality of absentee ballot drop boxes, which some argue could facilitate cheating, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The eventual ruling in the matter will determine whether voters will be able to utilize such drop boxes this November when key races for governor and U.S. senator will be held, and will provide critical guidance on whether voters are permitted to give absentee ballots to others to return on their behalf and if drop boxes an legally be placed outside local clerk’s offices, as the Associated Press noted.

Earlier this year, the state high court banned drop boxes from being used outside clerk’s offices for April elections in which local mayoral, council, and school board positions were decided, but now the court must determine whether ballot drop boxes may be used going forward in a host of other locations.

Though state law does not specifically address the question of drop boxes, the Wisconsin Elections Commission advised local election officials that they could be situated at numerous location types and that ballots could be submitted by individuals other than the voters casting them.

The justices heard roughly two hours of arguments on Wednesday in which they asked a number of hypothetical questions to establish when the litigants believed drop boxes might be acceptable and under what circumstances voters could enlist the aid of others to return their ballots.

Conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn, who is known for occasionally siding with the court’s left-leaning wing, asked, “If I’m mailing an absentee ballot and my wife takes the three steps to put it in the mailbox, have I violated the law?”

Hagedorn also asked whether a ballot drop box located at a clerk’s office would be permissible if it was accessible to voters after hours and sent the ballot paperwork directly into the appropriate office, prompting an attorney for those opposing their use to argue that it should not be allowed, because no staff would be present.

A potential end to the use of certain types of drop boxes and/or the ability of people other than voters themselves to deposit or mail ballots has caused alarm among advocates for disabled and elderly individuals who contend that such an outcome would effectively disenfranchise them.

The court is expected to issue its final ruling on the matter by June, in plenty of time for primary and general elections in which Democrat Gov. Tony Evers as well as Republican Sen. Ron Johnson are vying for re-election.