Friday, July 5, 2024

Court’s Restoration of Ballot Drop Boxes Is a Victory for Voters and Democracy

For release: Friday - July 5, 2024

Image: Photo of a gavel

Decision Enables Many Wisconsinites to Better be Able to Return Absentee Ballots and Have Them Counted

The Wisconsin Supreme Court today issued an important voting rights decision that will be in effect for the August primary and November general election this year. The 4 to 3 decision in Priorities USA v. Wisconsin Elections Commission overturns a July 2022 decision by the court (also 4 to3) that prohibited the use of secure voter drop boxes, which had long been utilized throughout Wisconsin by voters to safely return absentee ballots in time to be counted in elections.

Common Cause Wisconsin (CC/WI), the state’s largest nonpartisan political reform advocacy organizations with more than 8,800 members and activists in every county and corner in Wisconsin, joined an amicus brief to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in May.

“Reinstating the use of secure ballot drop boxes is good for all of us in Wisconsin. It is especially good for individual voters who have mobility issues and time constraints that make it difficult for them to go into and out of a polling place or an election clerk’s office,” said Penny Bernard Schaber, the Co-Chair of CC/WI and a former Wisconsin State Representative from Appleton. “Secure ballot drop boxes are a necessary and safe way to return our ballots,” she added.

Voter drop boxes have been used since before 2016 and in 2020-21, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of drop boxes was expanded to 570 located in 66 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. The expanded number of drop boxes, authorized by the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), offered voters a more convenient and safe way to ensure that their absentee ballots could be returned in time to be counted, in part because of the uncertainty of timely delivery of ballots by the U.S. Postal Service.

But in early 2022, conservatives attacked the use of secure drop boxes wrongly claiming that the WEC authorization of their use was not sufficient. On July 8, 2022 the Wisconsin Supreme Court created new barriers to voting, including prohibiting the voter drop boxes throughout the state in their narrow ruling in Teigen v. Wisconsin Election Commission. Secure voter drop boxes were not in use in Wisconsin during the November 2022 midterm elections or any elections since.

CC/WI disagreed with the 2022 court decision and we welcomed the opportunity to join in the effort to overturn it this year.

Voter drop boxes are required or broadly accessible in 29 states including neighboring Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois. Voter drop boxes are also utilized, albeit with some limitations in Iowa, Indiana and in Ohio. With the new Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling, our state can now join the enlightened majority of states that allow secure ballot drop boxes to enhance access to the polls.

This is a happy landmark day marking the restoration of voting rights in Wisconsin.



Jay Heck
608/512-9363 (cell)

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

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