The Wisconsin state Supreme Court ruled on Friday that absentee ballot drop boxes are illegal under the provisions of the state constitution.
The court’s controversial ruling, which will likely benefit Republicans in the state, ran along partisan lines, with all four conservatives finding that the drop boxes were illegal and all three liberals dissenting. The ruling means that voters can no longer use drop boxes to vote early — absentee ballots must be turned in directly to election officials’ offices or sent by mail, the court said.
The ruling will take effect immediately, which means that drop boxes that are currently installed will not be usable in next month’s primary election races.
Absentee ballot drop boxes have been used in the state for years, but came into prominence during the 2020 election season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Around 500 drop boxes have been placed in front of public buildings in many communities in Wisconsin.
Conservatives in the state, particularly those loyal to former President Donald Trump, alleged, without evidence, that the use of drop boxes amounted to election fraud in the 2020 presidential race. The state Supreme Court’s majority ruling, authored by conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley, seemed to suggest an endorsement of that idea, unduly comparing Wisconsin’s elections to rigged elections in countries like North Korea and Syria.
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, one of the liberal bloc justices, wrote the dissent in the case, noting that the majority opinion “has the practical effect of making it more difficult to exercise” the right to vote in the state.
Walsh Bradley also took note of the conservative Bradley’s assertions of fraud, writing that the ruling from the majority “without justification fans the flames of electoral doubt that threaten our democracy.”
“The majority/lead opinion’s sky-is-falling rhetoric not only defies the facts, but also is downright dangerous to our democracy,” Walsh Bradley added. “Absent evidence that supports its statements, the majority/lead opinion still lends its imprimatur to efforts to destabilize and delegitimize recent elections.”
Indeed, as a fact check from CNN points out, there is no proof to any claims (in Wisconsin or elsewhere) that drop boxes create a greater possibility of election fraud.
Absentee ballot drop boxes “are designed with anti-tampering measures, affixed to the ground, made with durable materials, and often monitored by video surveillance — and there is no evidence that the boxes were used for fraudulent purposes in the 2020 presidential election,” that fact check said.
Gov. Tony Evers (D), who is up for reelection this fall, decried the ruling.
“Today’s decision is another in a long line of Wisconsin Republicans’ successes to make it harder for Wisconsinites to exercise their right to vote, to undermine our free, fair, and secure elections, and to threaten our democracy,” Evers said in a press release.
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