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Wisconsin Supreme Court restricts ballot boxes

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(AP) Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court ruled Friday that absentee ballots should only be placed in election offices, inflicting critical defeats on Democrats in the battlefield state. The court did not address the question of whether anyone other than the voter can hand in his or her own ballot paper by post. Election officials and others had argued that drop boxes are a safe and convenient way for voters to hand in ballots. The decision sets the voting rules for absences for the August 9 primaries and the fall elections; Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and Democratic Administration Tony Evers are seeking reelection in key races. The court’s 4-3 ruling also has critical implications in the 2024 presidential race, in which Wisconsin will once again be among a handful of battlefield states. President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by just under 21,000 votes in 2020, four years after Trump narrowly won the state by a similar margin. The popularity of absentee ballots exploded during the 2020 pandemic, with more than 40% of all voters casting their ballots, a record high. For that year’s election, at least 500 drop boxes were set up in more than 430 communities, including more than a dozen in Madison and Milwaukee, the state’s two most Democratic cities. After Trump lost the state, he and the Republicans argued that drop boxes allowed cheating, even though they offered no proof. Democrats, election officials and some Republicans claimed the boxes are safe. The conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed a lawsuit in 2021. The state Supreme Court banned the use of drop boxes outside of electoral chancellors in April’s election for local offices, such as mayor, city council and school board seats. The court ruled Friday on whether secure ballot boxes should be allowed in libraries and supermarkets, among others. State law is silent on drop boxes and the court said absent ballots can only be returned to the clerk’s office or a designated alternate location. The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission had told local election officials that the boxes could be placed in multiple locations and the ballots returned by people other than the voter, but has put that on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling. Republicans who control the Wisconsin legislature have also tried to pass laws limiting the use of absentee ballots, but Evers vetoed them. Republicans have taken similar steps since Trump’s defeat to solidify access to ballots in other battlefield states. The restrictions mainly target voting methods that have become increasingly popular and have created barriers to postal and early voting that exploded during the pandemic. Click here for the full decision.

(AP) Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court ruled Friday that absentee ballots should only be placed in election offices, inflicting critical defeats on Democrats in the battlefield state.

The court did not address the question of whether anyone other than the voter can hand in his or her own ballot paper by post. Election officials and others had argued that drop boxes are a safe and convenient way for voters to hand in ballots.

The decision sets the voting rules for absences for the August 9 primaries and the fall elections; Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and Democratic Administration Tony Evers are seeking reelection in key races.

The court’s 4-3 ruling also has critical implications in the 2024 presidential race, in which Wisconsin will once again be among a handful of battlefield states. President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by just under 21,000 votes in 2020, four years after Trump narrowly won the state by a similar margin.

The popularity of absentee ballots exploded during the 2020 pandemic, with more than 40% of all voters casting their ballots, a record high. For that year’s election, at least 500 drop boxes were set up in more than 430 communities, including more than a dozen in Madison and Milwaukee, the state’s two most Democratic cities.

After Trump lost the state, he and the Republicans argued that drop boxes allowed cheating, even though they offered no proof. Democrats, election officials and some Republicans claimed the boxes are safe.

The conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed a lawsuit in 2021. The state Supreme Court banned the use of drop boxes outside of electoral chancellors in April’s election for local offices, such as mayor, city council and school board seats. The court ruled Friday on whether secure ballot boxes should be allowed in libraries and supermarkets, among others.

State law is silent on drop boxes and the court said absent ballots can only be returned to the clerk’s office or a designated alternate location. The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission had told local election officials that the boxes could be placed in multiple locations and the ballots returned by people other than the voter, but has put that on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling.

Republicans who control the Wisconsin legislature have also tried to pass laws limiting the use of absentee ballots, but Evers vetoed them.

Republicans have taken similar steps since Trump’s defeat to solidify access to ballots in other battlefield states. The restrictions mainly target voting methods that have become increasingly popular and have created barriers to postal and early voting that have exploded during the pandemic.

Click here for the full decision.

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