In the very near future, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to render its decision in a case that will determine how absentee ballots can be returned to election clerks and whether or not the use of safe and secure voting drop boxes, widely used during the 2020 elections in Wisconsin, will continue. The decision by the court could have a particularly significant effect on the votes cast by thousands of Wisconsinites with various disabilities who rely on other people to help them to complete the absentee ballot process and to either mail or personally deliver their ballots to election clerks in time to be counted.
The case originated last year when a radical right wing law firm in Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), decided it could help Republicans win elections by making it more difficult to vote by absentee ballot and, in particular, to make it more difficult for people with disabilities to vote. WILL, which is largely funded by the ultra-conservative Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, cynically calculated that more Wisconsinites voting by absentee ballot cast their votes for Democrats than Republicans and so by making absentee voting more difficult and outlawing the use of secure voting drop boxes which enabled absentee voters to return their ballots more conveniently, they could reduce the number of votes for Democrats and therefore ensure Republican victories in more elections.
Late last year, WILL sought out a conservative circuit court judge that would be sympathetic to their scheme and found one in Waukesha County, Michael Bohren. Bohren blocked the use of secure voter drop boxes for the April 2022 election. The question for WILL then became whether they could have voter drop boxes eliminated for this November’s election. The case was appealed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and then to the Wisconsin Supreme Court where a decision on both matters — who can actually return or even put in the mail box an absentee ballot for a voter physically or otherwise unable to mail or deliver their ballot to the election clerk themself, and the use of voter drop boxes is expected by June.
We can only hope that conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court will not view this case through the same partisan lenses through which they seem to view and decide so many important and critical matters concerning democracy, justice and equal protection under the law. We already know there are no limits on how far conspiracy theorists, election deniers, ultra-partisan political hacks and Trump-appeasers like Michael Gableman, Janel Bradtjen, Timothy Ramthun and the lawyers at WILL may go to achieve their partisan objectives. What a majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court soon decides about how citizens who require to be able to vote by absentee ballot and to be able to have their ballots returned and counted in time for their voices to be heard, will tell us much about the kind of state and people we are. And about the future of democracy in Wisconsin.
What then can we do to be proactive about voting? You can make sure you are registered to vote. If you’d like to request an absentee ballot by mail, you can also apply now for ballots for the August and November elections to be sent to you. Make your plans to vote in this falls elections. All this can be done at MyVote WI (myvote.wi.gov).