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Wisconsin Supreme Court hears lawsuit seeking to overturn ballot drop box ban

Supreme Court hears ballot drop box lawsuit.
Harm thumbnail 5-13-24
Posted at 11:23 AM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 12:23:05-04

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a lawsuit asking justices to reverse a decision from two years ago banning absentee ballot drop boxes.

The challenge comes amid a high-stakes presidential race in which Wisconsin is one of a handful of battleground states. Democrats who brought the lawsuit hope the high court’s liberal majority will re-allow drop boxes ahead of the November election.

Liberal justices gained control of the state Supreme Court last year for the first time in more than a decade. Since then, they’ve used their power to declare the state’s Republican-drawn legislative maps unconstitutional and strip power from the court’s conservative chief justice.

The use of drop boxes surged across Wisconsin in 2020 as voters became wary of going to the poll amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Elderly voters and voters with disabilities say drop boxes were a convenient and accessible option.

Susan Roberts, 78, was at the Capitol on Monday with other voters and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign to advocate for the court to allow drop boxes. A former nurse, she now relies on a cane or walker to get around and said she suffers from inflammatory arthritis and Raynaud’s Disease, which causes pain in response to cold temperatures.

“I can't stand out in the cold anymore,” she said, referring to polling place lines. “I find it annoying that they want to keep people from voting conveniently.”

In the wake of former President Donald Trump’s loss in Wisconsin in 2020, Republicans alleged that drop boxes had been used to facilitate widespread voter fraud. Those conspiracy theories ultimately led the then-conservative-controlled court to outlaw drop boxes.

Multiple recounts, a review by a conservative law firm and a nonpartisan audit of the 2020 election have upheld President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 and found no evidence of widespread fraud.

Republicans argue that overturning the 2022 decision would politicize the court and create issues for the upcoming election. Meanwhile, Democrats allege that the 2022 ruling was faulty and has had negative impacts for Wisconsin voters.

The court is expected to issue a decision sometime this summer. That means its ruling will likely be in place for both the August primary and the November presidential election.