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Election

Judge: WI Ballot Drop Boxes Not Permitted Under State Law

Voting Ballot Drop off Box
Pamela JG Au
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Adobe Stock
According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, more than 40% of voters cast their ballots by mail in November 2020, up roughly 5% in the 2016 presidential election.

During Wisconsin's pandemic elections, absentee ballot drop boxes offered a different route for people to cast their votes, but a new decision in Waukesha County Circuit Court could bar their use in future elections.

Luke Berg, deputy counsel at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, argued in a Thursday hearing for the group's lawsuit, drop boxes aren't mentioned anywhere in state law and therefore, are not permitted.

"What that means is there are no procedures, there are no requirements, there are no limitations on drop boxes, if they are allowed," Berg contended. "There are no restrictions on where they can go, on how many there can be, on how secure they should be."

An attorney for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the defendant in the suit, countered the drop boxes are covered under existing absentee-voting rules. Attorneys for intervening parties in the case also claimed the plaintiffs, two Waukesha County residents, did not have legal standing to bring the suit.

The Associated Press reports the judge's decision will still allow drop boxes at municipal clerks' offices. An appeal in the case is likely.

Steven Kilpatrick, assistant Attorney General, pushed back on the assertion the state lacks formal rules for drop boxes. He said the Commission has established guidelines for their installation and operation.

"The Commission is not advocating or recommending that municipal clerks leave a shoebox on a park bench to collect absentee ballots," Kilpatrick stressed.

Wisconsin GOP lawmakers have waged a months-long battle to restrict absentee voting. In August, Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill which would have restricted drop-box locations.

According to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, more than 500 absentee-ballot drop boxes were established across the state ahead of the November 2020 election.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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