© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Majority on Wisconsin Supreme Court raise concerns about ban on absentee ballot drop boxes

Screenshot
/
WisconsinEye
Members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court at the beginning of Monday's oral arguments on drop boxes.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court may be giving signs on how it will rule on an attempt to bring back absentee ballot drop boxes for this year’s elections.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court held oral arguments Monday on a lawsuit filed by a national progressive group and a Wisconsin seniors group. Those organizations are seeking to overturn a 2022 ruling issued by the then-conservative controlled court that blocked the use of unsupervised boxes that many cities offered absentee voters in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Screenshot
/
WisconsinEye
Justice Rebecca Bradley

Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote that decision. Monday, she quizzed the plaintiff's attorney as to how much latitude local election clerks should have in setting up drop boxes.

“What is the restriction? An unsecured bag? A cardboard box? A van that goes around picking up ballots? What is the limiting principle of what you’re asking this court to hold?” Bradley asked.

Priorities USA attorney David Fox replied there was no fraud when the drop boxes were used in 2020. They are typically big metal boxes, sort of like a curbside postal mail box. Supporters call them more secure than what the post office offers.

The two other conservatives on the state court, especially Brian Hagedorn and, to a lesser degree, Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, asked more polite but also challenging questions of the plaintiffs. On the other hand, the four more liberal justices who took control of the court last August challenged an attorney for the GOP-dominated state legislature, who kept urging the court to respect the 2022 ruling.

Screenshot
/
WisconsinEye
Justice Jill Karofsky

Justice Jill Karofsky asked about that ruling, usually known as Teigen.

“What are we to do here if we believe Teigen was egregiously wrong from the start? That its reasoning was exceptionally weak and that the decision has had damaging consequences? “ Karofsky said.

The legislature’s lawyer, Misha Tseytlin, contended there’s no evidence of damage to voters, although clerks have reported that hundreds more absentee ballots were delivered by mail too late in 2022 to be counted than in 2020.

The state Republican Party issued a statement after the arguments contending, "left-wing justices are willing to sell out both precedent and principles."

A liberal group, A Better Wisconsin Together, said the court "is doing what Wisconsinites elected them to do, protecting constitutional rights."

A ruling is expected well before the state primary election in August, as voters will need to know if absentee drop boxes will be back on the scene, and clerks that wish to use the boxes will need to get them ready.

Editor’s note: A portion of the audio is from WisconsinEye.