A Wisconsin judge ruled Thursday that ballot drop boxes and ballot harvesting cannot be used in the midterm elections because “there is no statutory authority” for the practices.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed a lawsuit on behalf of two plaintiffs challenging the legality of the drop boxes.
Absentee ballot drop boxes were used widely during Wisconsin elections in 2020. The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) issued memos to Wisconsin clerks in March and August of 2020 encouraging their use, stating that absentee ballots do not need to be mailed by the voter or delivered by the voter, in person, to the municipal clerk, but instead could be dropped into a drop box. According to WEC, ballot drop boxes can be unstaffed, temporary, or permanent.
This advice was contrary to state law. Voting is a constitutional right, but state law makes clear that, “voting by absentee ballot is a privilege exercised wholly outside the traditional safeguards of the polling place.” There are just two legal ways in Wisconsin to submit an absentee ballot. When voting by absentee ballot, state law says “[t]he envelope [containing the ballot] shall be mailed by the elector, or delivered in person, to the municipal clerk issuing the ballot or ballots.”
An unstaffed, unsupervised absentee ballot drop box does not meet either of these legal options. And it raises significant concerns that elections are not being conducted legally and that Wisconsin voters will not have certainty that their votes will be counted if cast in this manner. (WILL)
"It's all good and nice, but there's no authority to do it," Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren said about the drop boxes.
WILL Deputy Counsel Luke Berg praised the ruling.
“The guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission on absentee ballot drop boxes was unlawful," he said. "There are just two legal methods to cast an absentee ballot in Wisconsin: through the mail or in-person at a clerk’s office. And voters must return their own ballots. We are pleased the court made this clear, providing Wisconsin voters with certainty for forthcoming elections.”