Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstates use of ballot drop boxes after most were banned

The court ruled 4-3 to overturn their previous ruling.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC
Wisconsin’s Supreme Court on Friday ruled to reinstate the use of most ballot drop boxes in the state. The 4-3 ruling from the court overturns a previous decision it made that banned the use of most of these boxes. This comes around four months before the 2024 election.

"Our decision today does not force or require that any municipal clerks use drop boxes," the justices wrote, according to NBC News. "It merely acknowledges...that clerks may lawfully utilize secure drop boxes in an exercise of their statutorily-conferred discretion."

In the 2020 election, the Wisconsin Elections Commission approved funding for the expanded use of drop boxes for ballots due to the pandemic. Following a case brought forth by conservative groups, the state Supreme Court ruled in July 2022 that drop boxes could only be located at offices of election clerks, and that only the state Legislature, not the elections commission, had the power to enact laws on drop boxes.

Priorities USA, a Democrat group, filed a suit in 2023 after the liberals won back the majority of the state high court, seeking to overturn the 2022 ruling as well as other restrictions. The group argued that the previous ruling had been incorrectly decided because Wisconsin law does not include the issue of drop boxes. They acknowledged that the law does state explicitly that absentee ballots should be returned by mail or in person, but added that it was unclear whether voters can return ballots in person to locations other than a clerk’s office.

The court’s four liberal justices voted to take up the case in March, agreeing to only resolve whether the ruling was incorrectly decided, not any other issues raised in the case.

"Our decision today does not force or require that any municipal clerks use drop boxes," Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote, according to the New York Times. "It merely acknowledges,” she added, what Wisconsin law “has always meant: that clerks may lawfully utilize secure drop boxes in an exercise of their statutorily conferred discretion."

Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote in a dissent that "the majority again forsakes the rule of law in an attempt to advance its political agenda."

Democrat Governor Tony Evers celebrated the decision, calling it a "victory for our democracy” and added, “We’re going to keep fighting to ensure that every eligible voter can cast their ballot safely, securely, and as easily as possible.”
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