A Wisconsin state Circuit Court judge ruled last Thursday that the use of ballot drop boxes in the 2020 election was not proper under the law. Wisconsin declared Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump in the state by 20,682 total votes.
The ruling came from Judge Michael Bohren in a lawsuit filed in Waukesha County by the Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty on behalf of two local voters against the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC).
The lawsuit argues that the WEC issued election process guidance to county election clerks who illegally authorized ballot collection “drop” boxes. WILL Deputy Counsel Luke Berg said that Wisconsin has only two legal methods for casting an absentee ballot: by USPS or in person at an election clerk’s office. Berg added that every voter must return their ballot and said that his organization is pleased the court ruled to make the process transparent.
The WEC guidance said that clerks could install any drop boxes indoors or outdoors and were not required to be staffed. Existing facilities such as library book slots were also repurposed as ballot drop boxes.
Berg argued that the dropbox guidance was issued outside the proper rule-making process and was not subject to absolute legal standards or regulations.
As Judge Bohren said, the court agreed that the WEC guidance amounted to a “major policy decision” that fundamentally alters the absentee ballot process in a way that is inconsistent with existing law. Bohren held that the state legislature could only make such changes.
WILL published a review last year that found the 2020 drop boxes increased voter turnout by around 48 votes per community where drop boxes were used. The organization concluded that the use of drop boxes alone accounted for an estimated 20,736 additional Biden votes.
A report from the Healthy Elections Project states that in the 2020 election, only eight states permitted ballot drop boxes according to law, although at least 19 states ended up using drop boxes. In his ruling last week, the ballot boxes also make “ballot harvesting” much more manageable, which Judge Bohren observed illegal under Wisconsin law.
The WEC said it would review the ruling to file an appeal before the January 27 deadline.