State lawmakers rally ahead of expected WI Supreme Court decision on ballot drop boxes

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 7:15 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to rule in June whether ballot drop boxes are allowed under state law.

Two state lawmakers from the Chippewa Valley, Rep. Jodi Emerson, D-Eau Claire, and Sen. Jeff Smith, D-Town of Brunswick, rallied Thursday outside Eau Claire City Hall calling on the justices to allow the boxes for future elections.

“We are advocating that our Supreme Court rules in favor that drop boxes are an eligible way to return your ballot,” Emerson said.

“It just made sense during the pandemic, of all times, that we were trying to not only ensure that the voters had safe access to voting, but also that the clerks and poll workers were safe as well and not in contact with people who might be bringing a virus to them,” Smith said.

Though drop boxes were used during the 202 fall and 2021 spring elections after the Wisconsin Elections Commission voted to allow them during the pandemic. A Waukesha County judge ruled them illegal on Jan. 13.

State Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, is the former Chippewa County Clerk. She believes current law only allows people to return their ballot to the clerk in person or through the mail.

“The clerk is not a box. The clerk and/or deputy clerk, who acts on behalf of the clerk, is actually the clerk,” she said.

Earlier this year, Bernier sponsored several bills changing election law. One of them would have allowed drop boxes.

She said it passed with only GOP support before Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, vetoed it.

“We definitely are far apart on the whole idea of drop boxes,” Smith said of Bernier’s proposal.

He said her legislation had too many limits on where and how drop boxes could be used. He wants to see Wisconsin follow other states that allow drop boxes in several places across cities and towns.

“There are drop boxes sitting on the corner. Just like a mail box where you drop off your mail, your ballot,” Smith said. “And they’re safe, they’re secure, they work, because, by the way, every ballot has to be matched up with a voter.”

Bernier said she doesn’t feel sympathy for Democrats who fear the state Supreme Court outlawing drop boxes since they voted against her legislation.

“They voted against all of it and then now are complaining about it. Well, that’s, in my mind, nonsensical,” she said.

One thing Bernier and Smith did agree on is the politics surrounding election laws has become too polarized.

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