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Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstates absentee ballot drop boxes

Source: Jim Malewitz / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstates absentee ballot drop boxes

The 4-3 ruling was published Friday by the state's high court.

July 5, 2024 9:19 AM CDT

By: Jimmie Kaska

MADISON, Wis. (Civic Media) – The Wisconsin Supreme Court has reversed course and has now declared the use of unmanned absentee ballot drop boxes legal in time for the fall election.

The 4-3 ruling was published Friday by the state’s high court.

“We conclude that Wis. Stat. § 6.87(4)(b)1. allows the use of ballot drop boxes,” Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “For the reasons set forth below, we determine that the court’s contrary conclusion in Teigen was unsound in principle, and as a consequence, we overrule it.”

In several parts of the majority opinion, there were a number of references to various briefs and lawsuits filed on the issue. A significant portion of the majority opinion dealt with specific language on where ballots needed to be returned to, such as the municipal clerk versus the municipal clerk’s office. But those ruling in the majority opinion also believed that if the state legislature wanted to ban ballot drop boxes, they could pass a law.

“Had the legislature wanted to impose a rule of statutory construction on the absentee balloting statutes, it certainly knows how to do that,” Justice Walsh Bradley wrote.

State Sen. Chris Larson called the decision “a huge win for democracy.”

“We need to erase barriers to voting, not create arbitrary limitations out of thin air,” Larson wrote on X.

In dissent, the court’s conservative justices cited the 2022 decision limiting the use of the drop boxes, and wrote that the liberal majority was picking sides.

“The majority again forsakes the rule of law in an attempt to advance its political agenda,” Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote in dissent.

“This case marks the “death of statutory stare decisis” in Wisconsin. The fact that the majority disputes the upshot of its decision only serves to prove it.”

Republican Rep. Tom Tiffany said the decision opens up the state to election fraud.

“The liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court… [is] effectively legalizing anonymous ballot box stuffing,” Tiffany wrote on X. “This decision not only opens the door to potentially fraudulent activities but also undermines the expressed desires of Wisconsin voters.”

You can read the full state Supreme Court opinion below.

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