Friday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court delivered a victory for ballot integrity and the credibility of the voting process. By a 4-3 vote, the Court ruled that Wisconsin law prohibited the use of ballot “drop boxes” in most circumstances and outlawed the vote-fraud tactic of ballot harvesting. You can read the genesis of this case here: Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Rules Absentee Ballot Boxes Illegal.
It’s a ruling feared by voting rights proponents, who said ahead of time such a decision would make it harder for voters — particularly those with disabilities — to return their absentee ballots. Many Republicans hoped for a ruling that they said would help prevent someone from casting a ballot in the name of someone else.
The 4-3 ruling came a month before the state’s Aug. 9 primaries, when voters will narrow the fields for governor and U.S. senator. Both contests in this battleground state are being closely watched nationally.
For years, ballot drop boxes were used without controversy across Wisconsin. Election clerks greatly expanded their use in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic as absentee voting hit unprecedented levels.
The state’s high court on Friday ruled that means voters themselves must return absentee ballots and cannot use drop boxes.
Wisconsin law says no person may “receive a ballot from or give a ballot to a person other than the election official in charge.” Those bringing the lawsuit argued that policy must be strictly followed, meaning it would be illegal for someone to drop their elderly parents’ ballots off for them or for church members to gather ballots after a service and then take them to a clerk’s office.
The majority agreed with that assessment.
Republicans have been most concerned about large-scale efforts to collect ballots by partisan actors. While some have engaged in that practice in other states, neither side deployed extensive operations for ballot collection in Wisconsin in 2020, when Joe Biden narrowly defeated President Donald Trump in the state.
The lower court ruled that ballots returned by mail could be placed into mailboxes only by voters themselves — a finding that alarmed advocates for the disabled because some voters physically cannot get to the polls or place their ballots in the mail.
In 2020, the Wisconsin voting process was so rife with corruption that no one will ever know who won (I’m just saying that to be bipartisan, I think we all know who won). In three Wisconsin counties, 100% of all the nursing home residents voted (64 nursing homes). Two other counties had over 95% of their nursing home residents vote. Ballot “drop boxes” were set up willy-nilly in response to court orders. These kinds of “irregularities” and outright fraud were carried out with impunity, see Group Files Emergency Petition in Wisconsin to Stop Certification After Finding ‘Over 150,000 Potentially Fraudulent Ballots’ and Trump Campaign Focusing on Unlawful Use of Absentee Ballot Process to Avoid Wisconsin ID Requirement.
Locking down these two entry points of vote fraud before an election is underway is critical. This state supreme court ruling neuters the network of tame and compliant judges in other state courts. This means there can be no ruling by a lower court judge establishing “drop boxes” and allowing ballot harvesting. The US Supreme Court has ordered federal courts not to interfere in election rules. Oddly enough, that order arose from a federal judge in Wisconsin changing the rules for accepting absentee ballots in 2020.
At a minimum, this ruling should ensure the rules in effect on election day are those passed by the Wisconsin legislature.
When considered in light of a Supreme Court victory that fended off an illegal power grab by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (read ), this leaves the GOP in good shape in Wisconsin for the 2022 elections.