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Wisconsin’s Supreme Court upholds a ban on ballot drop boxes in the state’s upcoming election, following a trend across the country to limit voting access

A cyclist rides past a ballot drop box, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Seattle. Pierce County Audit Julie Anderson is running to be the state’s first nonpartisan chief election official.

Ted S. Warren/AP

  • Two voters in Wisconsin sued to ban ballot drop boxes for absentee ballots last year. 
  • On Friday, the state’s Supreme Court sided with them. 
  • The Supreme Court ruled that drop boxes cannot be used from the state’s April election.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled to allow a ban on the use of ballot drop boxes in the state’s April election, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. 

The ruling follows a wave of restrictive voting laws being enacted across the country. The Brennan Center for Justice, a law and public policy non-profit, reported in December that over 440 bills with provi­sions that restrict voting access were introduced in all but one state last year. 

Altogether, there were 34 restrictive voting access laws passed in 19 states in 2021, according to the Brennan Center. 

In Wisconsin, two voters sued with the help from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative group, to block the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots. A Waukesha judge ruled in their favor, but an appellate court ruled to allow the use of the drop boxes for the February primary election since it was so close, the Journal-Sentinel reported. 

The state’s Supreme Court took over the case and on Friday, in a 4 to 3 ruling, kept the appellate court’s ruling to allow the use of the ballot drop boxes in the February election but denied a request to extend that for the April 5 general election, the Associated Press reported. 

The ruling would apply to the April election and onward, but the court has not ruled on the underlying case, which seeks to ban the boxes entirely, the Journal-Sentinel reported.

A verdict is expected in the upcoming weeks or months, the Journal-Sentinel reported.

The ruling also prohibits the delivery of absentee ballots by a third party in the April election. Barbara Beckert, director of the Milwaukee office of Disability Rights Wisconsin, told the Journal-Sentinel this could disenfranchise disabled voters who need help filling out and delivering their ballots. 

“People who cannot get out of bed, people who cannot move their arms, people who are paralyzed, people who do not have hands — they must have someone else assist them with returning their ballot,” Beckert said. 

Voters can still have their ballots delivered by someone else in next week’s primary election. 

The four Justices who voted to block the use of the drop boxes were elected with the help of Republicans and the three dissenters were elected with the help of Democrats, the Journal-Sentinel reported.

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