Absentee ballot rules challenge is a step closer to the Wisconsin Supreme Court

Attorneys for the national Democratic law firm the Elias Law Group filed notice they would appeal a circuit judge’s ruling dismissing claims challenging several voting rules, including a absentee ballot drop box ban.

Associated Press

January 31, 2024

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A row of five cloth-bound books with the title Wisconsin Statutes 2021-22, with labels marking the volume number and chapters included stand on a small wood bookshelf, with another book resting on its side and out-of-focus in the foreground.

Wisconsin Statutes books stand on a shelf during a Wisconsin Supreme Court hearing on Sept. 7, 2023, in Madison. A lawsuit filed by a national Democratic law firm seeking to once again allow voters to return absentee ballots in drop boxes is one step closer to the state Supreme Court. (Credit: AP Photo / Morry Gash, File)

AP News

By Scott Bauer, AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democrats are appealing a judge’s dismissal of their lawsuit as they once again seek to allow Wisconsin voters to return absentee ballots in drop boxes, bringing the challenge one step closer to the liberal-controlled state Supreme Court.

Absentee ballot drop boxes were barred in Wisconsin in 2022 following criticism by former President Donald Trump.

Attorneys for the national Democratic firm the Elias Law Group filed notice Jan. 30 that it was appealing a circuit judge’s ruling the previous week dismissing its claims challenging the constitutionality of several voting rules in the battleground state.

Dane County Circuit Judge Ann Peacock ruled that the lawsuit did not meet the “high burden” required to declare that the voting rules being challenged were unconstitutional in every application. However, she did not address whether the legality of absentee ballot drop boxes should be looked at again.

“I leave any revisiting of that decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” the judge wrote.

In July 2022, just months before the midterm election, the 4-3 conservative majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court banned the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, which exploded in popularity in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump, who won Wisconsin in 2016 but lost it in 2020, has falsely alleged that absentee voting in the state is rife with fraud.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court flipped to majority liberal control less than two weeks after the lawsuit seeking to reinstate drop boxes was filed in July.

The rules for voting in Wisconsin are of heightened interest, given its place as one of a handful of battleground presidential states. Four of the past six presidential elections in Wisconsin have been decided by less than a percentage point, including the past two.

In addition to once again legalizing drop boxes, the lawsuit seeks to undo a requirement that a witness sign absentee ballots and that any problems with absentee ballots be corrected by the voter no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day. It argues that absentee voting is a right and not a privilege and that state law not recognizing that violates the Wisconsin Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed against the Wisconsin Elections Commission by Priorities USA, a national Democratic organization, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, as well as a Dane County resident.

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