Some election managers ignoring Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling on absentee ballots

League of Wisconsin Municipalities said in a letter to local election managers that ruling isn’t binding for everyone.

Updated: April 1, 2022 - 12:11am

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There are different rules for returning absentee ballots in some Wisconsin communities.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court in February reinstated an order from a Waukesha County judge that banned ballot drop boxes and stated that voters can only return their own ballot to the polling place or elections office.

But the League of Wisconsin Municipalities said in a letter to local election managers that ruling isn’t binding for everyone.

“Ultimately, each clerk will need to decide what to do, taking into consideration both state and federal law, the different ways the absentee ballot statute can be interpreted, and the risks of choosing one option over another,” the letter from League lawyers said. “Clerks who refuse to accept absentee ballots delivered by third parties on behalf of disabled electors may face claims they effectively prevented those voters from voting and face litigation under the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) and Americans with Disabilities Act, or both."

For next Tuesday’s election, that means some communities are allowing people to return ballots from other voters.

Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg told a Milwaukee TV station that she doesn’t really ask questions of voters who return extra ballots.

"There is no requirement to show proof of ID when returning a ballot and we are not asking for any other proof,” Woodall-Vogg said.

She said they may ask if someone is “assisting” another voter by returning their ballots.

Woodall-Vogg suggested there would be fewer questions about who is returning ballots if Wisconsin election managers could use ballot drop boxes.

“So many people relied on absentee ballot drop boxes in previous elections,” Woodall-Vogg said.

Drop boxes were first used in the spring election in 2020.

Republicans in Wisconsin say the drop boxes were hotbeds of ballot harvesting.

Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, said data shows “138 people visited drop boxes 3,568 times in the days and weeks before the November election.”

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court is set to decide the question of ballot drop boxes, and likely the rules for absentee ballot returns, after they hear arguments in the case on April 13.

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