Wisconsin Supreme Court Approves Expanded Ballot Drop Box Usage

 July 5, 2024

In a pivotal decision on Friday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court cleared the way for expanded use of ballot drop boxes across the state, a significant shift influenced by the court's new liberal majority.

Breitbart reported that this new ruling overturns the restrictions placed on ballot drop boxes in 2022, redefining voter access in this crucial swing state. This is a major blow for election security proponents as ballot drop boxes are a major source of election fraud.

Previously, in July 2022, the court had constrained the use of ballot drop boxes in election clerks' offices and mandated that only the individual voter could return their ballot. This decision came amid a wave of debates over voting accessibility and security.

However, the landscape of the court changed dramatically with the election of Justice Janet Protasiewicz in April 2023, ushering in a liberal majority that has now reevaluated the utility and legality of drop boxes.

The call to revisit the 2022 ruling came from Priorities USA, a progressive advocacy group, in February. Recognizing the controversial nature of this issue, especially in a battleground state like Wisconsin, the group urged the justices to reconsider their stance in light of evolving voter needs and the upcoming election cycle.

Justice Shift Leads To Change In Electoral Dynamics

With the court's composition altered, the justices in March agreed to review the previously imposed ban on drop boxes, though they decided to leave other elements of the case untouched.

This led to a vigorous discussion within the judicial community and among the public regarding the convenience versus the security of ballot drop boxes.

The conversation reached the higher echelons of state power when Governor Tony Evers, in April, stepped into the fray. He advocated for the reinstatement of ballot drop boxes, highlighting their importance in facilitating voter participation, particularly among rural and disabled voters who might face challenges in accessing polling stations.

The court, led by its liberal majority, eventually arrived at a 4-3 decision allowing local election clerics wide latitude to place and manage ballot drop boxes. This verdict was articulated by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley who regarded this facilitation as akin to handing ballots directly to clerks — ensuring both accessibility and security.

Reactions Highlight Deep Political Divides

However, not everyone viewed this decision favorably. Conservative justices on the bench expressed their dissent, calling out the majority for what they perceived as a politically motivated decision. Justice Rebecca Bradley, in a particularly scathing critique, accused her colleagues of prioritizing political convenience over legal principle, suggesting that this was a victory of politics over law.

On the ground, reactions were similarly mixed. Matt Fisher, representing conservative viewpoints, echoed Justice Bradley's sentiments, vowing that the electorate would respond to this judicial activism.

In contrast, Scott McDonell, an election official, celebrated the decision, highlighting the enhanced accessibility drop boxes would bring to voters, thereby strengthening democratic engagement.

It's worth noting that the use of drop boxes is not uncommon in the United States. At least 29 other states have adopted this method to varying extents, reflecting a national trend towards diverse voting methods that accommodate a broader spectrum of voters’ needs. During the pandemic in 2020, this method saw a significant uptick in use due to health concerns associated with traditional in-person voting.

Security Concerns Addressed Amidst Approval

Despite ongoing claims from some quarters about the potential for fraud, substantial evidence regarding Dropbox security has been presented. An Associated Press survey conducted in 2020 found no substantial cases of fraud related to the use of drop boxes, reinforcing the argument that they are a secure method of collecting ballots.

This detail is critical in a state like Wisconsin, where recent elections have been decided by razor-thin margins — President Joe Biden's narrow victory in 2020 is a testament to that. The reintroduction of drop boxes could thus play a crucial role in future elections, possibly influencing outcomes in this swing state.

In conclusion, the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision to allow expanded use of ballot drop boxes marks a significant shift in the state’s electoral landscape.

By prioritizing accessibility and addressing security concerns, the court has set the stage for what could be a highly participative election season in Wisconsin. The ruling reflects not just a change in judicial perspective but also adapts to the evolving needs of voters, offering them a more flexible and convenient way to exercise their democratic rights.

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