Supreme Court: Drop Boxes, Ballot Trafficking Illegal

Decision Restores a Measure of Integrity to Wisconsin Elections

In a long-awaited 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the unmanned drop boxes and ballot trafficking that proliferated in the 2020 elections and since under guidance from the Wisconsin Election Commission are illegal under Wisconsin law.

Writing for the majority, Justice Rebecca Bradley said:

“If the right to vote is to have any meaning at all, elections must be conducted according to law. 

Election outcomes obtained by unlawful procedures corrupt the institution of voting, degrading the very foundation of free government. Unlawful cotes do not dilute unlawful votes so much as they pollute them, which in turn pollutes the integrity of the results.”

The court considered 2 main questions, whether drop boxes are legal and whether ballot trafficking is legal.  On both questions the court ruled that they are not legal. 

From the decision:

“An inanimate object…cannot be the municipal clerk…dropping a ballot into an unattended drop box is not “delivery to the municipal clerk.” 

“We conclude WEC’s staff erred in authorizing a voting mechanism not allowed by law.”

“WEC’s staff also erred…by stating “a family member or another person may…return the ballot on behalf of the voter”…The law does not permit this.”

A third issue, whether voters who return absentee ballots by mail must personally place their ballot in the mailbox or whether their agent may do so on their behalf, the decision did not address. 

We covered testimony to lawmakers in March by True the Vote, where they revealed they had used  publicly available data to identify 138 people who made over 3,500 trips between ballot drop boxes and local “non-profit” groups in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Racine.  Though the statutes are clear on this matter, some local election officials have flouted the law, and today’s ruling made clear that ballot trafficking through the use of drop boxes is illegal.

The decision firmly shut down Disability Rights Wisconsin’s argument that the Supreme Court should not decide the legality of the practices WEC guidance erroneously allowed, and which allowed the exploitation of vulnerable members of the disabled community who perhaps most heavily rely on the law to protect their voting rights.

We covered heart wrenching stories from families of vulnerable nursing home residents who, despite not having voted in years, suffering from dementia, being unable to speak or recognize family, suddenly “requested” absentee ballots and “voted” in the 2020 because of WECs illegal guidance and lax oversight.  We hope the disability advocacy community will refocus their efforts on protecting the disabled community from this kind of abuse. 

MacIver will cover the Wisconsin Elections Commission meeting next week on Tuesday scheduled to discuss their guidance based on the decision.

MacIver Institute President Brett Healy applauded the ruling: 

“After years of court challenges, the court has restored a measure of sanity and integrity to our election process through today’s ruling.  Wisconsin law is clear, drop boxes were never authorized nor intended to be used. Unfortunately, the next challenge will be to force local election officials in some of our largest cities to obey the law.”