A lawsuit from a top Republican donor argues that absentee dropboxes, like those scattered across the City of Madison, are illegal.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, plaintiffs in the case argue that absentee ballot drop boxes are illegal because they are not specifically included as an option by state law.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the case was filed earlier this week directly before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, leapfrogging the state’s lower circuit courts.
Per Wisconsin State law, absentee ballots “shall be mailed by the elector, or delivered in person, to the municipal clerk issuing the ballot or ballots.”
Madison City Attorney Michael Haas says that state law does not specifically prohibit drop boxes.
HAAS: “The state law established the broad rules for voting. They do not prohibit drop boxes, they do not mention drop boxes. What they mention is returning the ballot to the municipal clerk, and the statutes say the ballot can be returned by mail or returned in-person to the clerk, and it doesn’t indicate one way or the other whether the voter has to hand the ballot, doesn’t define what it means to return a ballot.”
The Wisconsin Elections Commission, which administers the state’s elections, previously permitted the use of ballot drop boxes if local clerks followed security guidelines. For the approaching election in April, the city of Madison has 14 ballot drop boxes in operation.
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway tells W-O-R-T that the lawsuit is an attempt at voter suppression.
CONWAY: “Honestly, my first reaction is, wow, they really don’t want people to vote. I mean it’s ridiculous. It’s clear not just from our experience in Madison, but from multiple cities, that ballot drop boxes are safe, secure, they give people another option to make a safe voting plan. What is wrong with giving them another option to get back to the clerk. I’m frankly flabbergasted at how intent on voter suppression these people seem to be.”
The mayor also emphasized that the City Clerk’s office already has plenty of election rules to follow.
Jere Fabick, the case’s plaintiff and a major Republican donor, also wants the court to make it illegal for individuals other than election officials to be able to accept returns of absentee ballots.
The lawsuit also argues that absentee ballots that are missing the address of a witness shall not be counted. And it also argues that t third parties cannot return an absentee ballot for voters. That’s a practice called ballot harvesting, and it’s not directly addressed by state statute.
The state Supreme Court has not yet indicated whether they will hear the case. The spring election is in less than three weeks, on April 6th.
Photo: Chali Pittman / WORT News