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WI Supreme Court provides clarity on early voting sites

 official absentee ballot voting material envelope
Lost_in_the_Midwest - stock.adobe.com

Local election administrators have new guidance from Wisconsin's highest court on alternative early voting sites. A political expert says the timing is important for the battleground state ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a ruling this week that bans the use of "mobile voting sites." That outcome is seen as a victory for conservatives challenging such options, but separately, the court kept in place rules that allow clerks to choose other alternative sites for absentee voting.

University of Wisconsin political science professor Barry Burden said that means these officials will still have flexibility as they sort out logistics.

"They face a lot of difficulties trying to find sites that are available," he said. "They're often repurposing a church or a school or a community building."

With the Supreme Court pausing a lower court's ruling that heavily restricted these other sites, Burden said clerks won't have added confusion as they meet deadlines for this year's election. The case has to do with the interpretation of state law that prohibits alternative sites from being set up in areas that could give one political party an advantage over another.

Burden and other political observers still expect the Wisconsin Supreme Court to issue a ruling soon about the banning of ballot dropboxes.

"The Supreme Court has considered a new case that would allow them again," he said, "and there's a new liberal majority that seems more inclined to permit those again, as they were used in 2020."

After the 2020 election, Wisconsin was one of the states embroiled in the "fake elector" scheme tied to supporters of former President Donald Trump. Even though Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee in this year's race, Burden doesn't predict the same fallout. He noted there are new guardrails, including updates to the federal Electoral Count Act, but he acknowledged there still could be lawsuits and protests in Wisconsin.

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

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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