A nonprofit conservative law firm has filed a lawsuit in Waukesha County Circuit Court challenging the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in Wisconsin.
The lawsuit, filed Monday by Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty on behalf of Richard Teigen, of Hartland, and Richard Thom, of Menomonee Falls, challenges the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s guidance to election clerks last year on the use of ballot drop boxes leading up to the 2020 election.
In the lawsuit, WILL challenges the state elections commission’s interpretation that ballot drop boxes can be unstaffed, temporary or permanent. Will has asked the court for a declaratory judgement that state law only allows absentee ballots to be cast via the mail or by delivering it in-person to a municipal clerk.
“Wisconsin voters deserve certainty that elections are conducted fairly and in accordance with state law,” WILL president and general counsel Rick Esenberg said in a statement. “But the Wisconsin Elections Commission is giving advice to clerks that is contrary to the law, putting the ballots of countless voters at risk.”
Absentee ballot boxes and community ballot collecting initiatives were widely used during the November election and had been cleared by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which oversees elections administered by thousands of Wisconsin cities and towns. Clerks made use of drop boxes during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide more return options for the significantly higher number of voters choosing to vote absentee.
Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, described WILL’s lawsuit as “blatantly anti-voter,” adding that ballot drop boxes provided a reliable tool for voters and clerks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Drop boxes have been challenged in court before, and I expect this lawsuit to have the same result as the rest — a loss for anti-voter groups like WILL and the Republican Party and a win for voters who are just trying to return their ballot,” Spreitzer tweeted Monday.
The use of absentee ballot drop boxes was heavily scrutinized both before and after the November election, and the practice was included in unsuccessful lawsuits filed with state and federal courts by former President Donald Trump and others challenging President Joe Biden’s win in the state.
Those cases were ultimately unsuccessful in overturning Trump’s election loss. WILL alleges the Wisconsin Supreme Court did not weigh in on the legal status of absentee ballot drop boxes.
What’s more, the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday tossed out an election lawsuit brought by conservative businessman Jere Fabick, a prominent Republican donor and president of Fabick Cat, the Caterpillar equipment and engine dealer.
In a 4-3 decision, the court relied upon procedural reasons not to hear the case over concerns from a minority of conservative justices that the state’s highest court is avoiding taking on important cases.
Earlier this month, the state Senate passed a handful of election-related bills, including one that would allow municipalities to have drive-up ballot drop boxes that are adequately secured and surveilled. It also would allow municipalities with at least 70,000 people to have up to three additional drop boxes on municipal property other than a public park.