The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from a January 13 circuit court decision that “held that Wisconsin Election Commission’s] guidance regarding absentee ballot drops boxes [deployed in the 2020 election] violates state laws and/or should not have been adopted through rulemaking.”
The Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty filed the case Teigen v Wisconsin Elections Commission, Waukesha County Circuit court on behalf of two Waukesha County residents in June 2021.
After WEC issued unlawful guidance to clerks in 2020 encouraging the use and return of absentee vote drop boxes, the lawsuit challenged the legal status of these boxes.
Will argued for the plaintiffs that “this advice was contrary state law”.
While voting is a constitutional right under the Constitution, Wisconsin law states that “voting by an absentee ballot is a privilege not subject to the traditional safeguards of the election place.” Absentee ballots can only be submitted in two ways. State law states that absentee voting requires that the ballot envelope be sent by the elector or delivered to the clerk in the municipality issuing it.
On January 13, Judge Michael Bohren of Waukesha County Circuit Court sided with the plaintiffs. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently noted that Bohren’s summary judgment was issued.
The circuit court held a hearing on January 13, 2022, and issued an oral ruling. It granted summary judgment to plaintiffs and denied the defendants’ request for summation. The Circuit court ruled that the Commission’s guidance in these areas was contrary to the statutes. It also ruled that the guidance documents were administrative rules under Chapter 227 that were invalid as they were not properly promulgated. The court ordered the Commission to withdraw the disputed guidance and to inform the clerks no later than January 27, 2022, that the guidance was invalid.
The court permanently prohibited the Commission from issuing any future guidance that conflicts with Wis. Stat. SSSS 6.87 & 6.855. On January 20, 2022, a written order was made that included this oral decision.
However, The Journal Sentinel reported that on January 24,
A lower court order was blocked Monday by an appeals court. The court ruled that absentee ballot drop boxes could be used in the February 15 primary.
A day before the election clerks was due to mail absentee ballots to voters in the race for Milwaukee mayor, and other local contests in Wisconsin, the unanimous decision of the District 4 Court of Appeals was issued.
Monday’s decision does not affect the February 15 primary. Later, the appeals court will determine what rules will apply to elections after that. . . Drop boxes saw a significant increase in use in 2020.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court granted the stay of the appeals court to continue until February 15 but denied WILL’s request for it to be rescinded and to go directly to the highest court in the state to make a decision. The court required written arguments from the plaintiffs’ attorneys by February 17 and the attorneys for defendants (including the WEC) by March 1.
One of the most controversial issues arising from the pivotal presidential election has been the widespread use of drop boxes to receive absentee ballots in key battleground states, such as Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
Breitbart News reported that Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 Wisconsin presidential election. The margin of victory was less than 21,000 votes. Additionally, the outcomes of the election were affected by the state’s ten Electoral College votes.
Republicans and Trump supporters argue that the use of these drop boxes was not legal at all and could have affected the outcome of the presidential elections in those states and, consequently, the whole national election.
Politico reported Saturday that the Wisconsin case, and another similar case in Pennsylvania, “could have major effects on voting in two important states.”