Wisconsin Supreme Court leaves in place ban on ballot box use for April election

Voters will, however, be permissible during the state's February primary.

Updated: February 14, 2022 - 3:45pm

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is allowing to stand a lower court decision that bans the use of ballot drop boxes for the April elections in the state.

However, the boxes will still be permissible in primaries next week, with the possibility that the high court will allow them to be used in future elections. 

Last month, a judge in Waukesha County ruled that boxes could not be used, a decision that was met with an appeals court ruling allowing them to be used during the February primary.

The state Supreme Court then intervened, ruling 4-3 Friday that they could be used during the primary but declined a request from the state Elections Commission to extend that policy through April.

The majority in the decision wrote that elections administrators should have time to "ameliorate concerns about voter confusion and election administration" before the April 5 election date for local offices.

The final ruling from the justices will likely arrive in the next few weeks.

A second issue at hand is the practice of having a secondary party deliver an absentee ballot. On Tuesday, the practice will be allowed for the primary, but not so in April.

The ruling means that in April, political groups will be barred from collecting ballots from voters and taking them to clerks, as will family members and neighbors.

The boxes began a viable alternative in the 2020 presidential cycle, amid the pandemic, for voters who wanted to avoid crowded polling stations. 

Some have argued that the recent court decision will impede the ability of disabled voters to participate in the democratic process.

"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," said Barbara Beckert, director of the Milwaukee office of Disability Rights Wisconsin.