Common Cause Wisconsin Signs on to Lawsuit to Restore Secure Voter Drop Boxes in Wisconsin

Common Cause Wisconsin (CC/WI), one of the state’s largest nonpartisan political reform advocacy organizations with more than 8,800 members and activists in every county and corner in Wisconsin, signed on to an amicus brief submitted in a lawsuit before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The suit seeks to overturn a 2022 decision to prohibit the use of secure voter drop boxes throughout Wisconsin. Voters used drop boxes safely and securely across the state from before the elections in 2016 until 2022 to return absentee ballots in time to be counted in elections.

In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of drop boxes was expanded to 570 located in 66 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. The expanded number of drop boxes, authorized by the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), offered voters a more convenient and safe way to ensure that their absentee ballots could be returned in time to be counted, in part because of the uncertainty of delivery of ballots in time by the U.S. Postal Service.

But in 2022, conservatives attacked the use of secure drop boxes claiming that the WEC authorization of their use was not sufficient. On July 8, 2022 the Wisconsin Supreme Court created new barriers to voting, including prohibiting the utilization of the voter drop boxes throughout our state in their narrow ruling in Teigen v. Wisconsin Election Commission. Secure voter drop boxes were not in use in Wisconsin during the November 2022 midterm elections, during 2023 and thus far in 2024.

CC/WI strongly opposed that misguided decision nearly two years ago and we welcome the opportunity to help overturn it now.

Fortunately, the Teigen v. W.E.C. decision was challenged last year and the Wisconsin Supreme Court will now reconsider their 2022 decision by agreeing to hear the case, Priorities USA v. Wisconsin Elections Commission.

In 29 states voter drop boxes are required or broadly accessible including in our neighboring states of Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois. Voter drop boxes are also utilized, albeit with some limitations in Iowa, Indiana and in Ohio. But currently in Wisconsin they are prohibited – the only “purple” or non-deep red state in the nation that completely bans them.

CC/WI is grateful to Zachary Goldstein and Mark Cherry of the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP for drafting the brief and incorporating the suggestions and concerns of Common Cause regarding this significant voting rights issue.

The highest court in our state should not create barriers to voting or restrict access to casting a ballot, including returning an absentee ballot through a secure drop box. We are hopeful that the Wisconsin Supreme Court will restore secure voter drop boxes for voters to be able to more readily participate in the democratic process in the pivotal 2024 election and beyond in Wisconsin.