Wisconsin’s Ballot Drop Boxes are Saved, But for How Long?

Together, we must ensure that every Wisconsinite can cast a ballot that counts.

This week, a panel of judges stood behind Wisconsinites and decided that every one of us deserves the freedom to safely cast a ballot. Late Monday afternoon, three judges representing the 4th District Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a prior ruling out of Waukesha that would have banned the use of ballot drop boxes ahead of the February 15 primary election.

The now halted Waukesha decision, made by conservative Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren in early January, would have allowed voters to cast their ballot via drop box only if the box was located inside a clerk’s office, which might be a slight inconvenience for some, but severely disruptive for thousands of other voters.

COVID-19 is still rapidly spreading across our communities. We’re in the midst of a freezing, icy Wisconsin winter. For voters whose health is at risk and those with mobility challenges, this means that casting their vote in a drop box close to home could be their safest – and sometimes only – option.

Thankfully, the Court of Appeals ruling will make sure they have that option this February.

As representatives from Disability Rights Wisconsin said in a statement this week, many Wisconsinites with disabilities rely on voting absentee, whether in the mail or via drop box, due to ableist barriers that restrict their ability to vote in-person. Some might even rely on a caretaker or loved one to deliver the ballot on their behalf.

In a time filled with so much uncertainty as is, Bohren’s ruling would have made the voting process that much more difficult to navigate, in turn disenfranchising thousands of Wisconsin voters in next month’s primary.

Voter suppression is an issue not unique to the Badger state. But here in Wisconsin, some right-wing politicians have proven eager to perpetuate rulings – like Bohren’s – that threaten our fundamental freedom to vote.

Like Rebecca Kleefisch, former Lieutenant Governor under Scott Walker and current gubernatorial candidate, who voted absentee in 2020 by marking herself indefinitely confined, but now wants to remove that option for other Wisconsin voters.

So, while the Court of Appeals’ decision this week is a step in the right direction, the road to end voter disenfranchisement – and ensure that every Wisconsinite can freely and safely cast a ballot that counts – still stretches on.

The Court of Appeals ruling will protect drop box access through the February primary, but it’s still possible that our access to drop boxes could be gutted ahead of the election in April.

Politicians like Kleefisch, with the help of judges like Bohren, are attacking our freedom to vote and working to sabotage our elections. This is our time to show up to vote, and to show we won’t be silenced.

This Wednesday, January 26, also happens to be the deadline for Wisconsin voters to register online or by mail for the February 15 Spring Primary election, meaning now is a great time to check your registration status or get registered to vote at myvote.wi.gov/en-us/register-to-vote.

Making sure that options like easily accessible drop boxes, online registration, and early and absentee voting are there for us will help make sure all of us are heard.

This election cycle, we deserve leaders who will fight to ensure that all voters have an equal voice. It’s time to stop the distractions and start investing in our well-being.

Together, we must ensure that every Wisconsinite can cast a ballot that counts.

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A Better Wisconsin Together is a state-based research and communications hub for progressives and is an affiliate of ProgressNow.