The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that absentee ballot drop boxes will continue to be allowed for the state’s spring primary election.
In a 4-3 ruling, the court ruled drop boxes must be allowed for the February 15 primary in order to avoid confusion—as absentee ballots were already mailed out to voters, some with instructions indicating voters could use drop boxes.
On Friday, justices also agreed to hear an expedited appeal of the case to determine the legality of the drop boxes for future Wisconsin elections.
“Vacating the stay would also likely cause substantial harm to the defendants and the public interest,” the court said in its decision issued Friday evening. “The February 2022 election process is already underway.”
About 8,400 absentee ballots had already been sent out by local clerks and at least 1,800 ballots had already been delivered or were currently out for delivery as of Monday morning, according to Madison.com.
On January 10, conservative Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren sided with the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) and ruled that absentee boxes wouldn’t be allowed for the primary. Wisconsin state law says ballots can be returned in person or by mail only. Many groups argued that the ruling “created a mess” because it was too close to the election, according to WPR.
On Monday, the District 4 Court of Appeals suspended Bohren’s order for the primary in part to avoid voter confusion.
“The voting process is even further along now than it was last week when the circuit court made its decision,” said Hagedorn, according to WPR. “Whether the circuit court’s decision to deny a stay constituted an erroneous exercise of discretion or not, further judicial relief would be inappropriate at this time. As a general rule, this court should not muddy the waters during an ongoing election.”
Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley took a jab at Hagedorn arguing that the decision was wrong because an appeals court didn’t get the chance to analyze the case.
“Astonishingly, Justice Hagedorn says it doesn’t matter whether the circuit court properly denied a stay of its order or not; apparently, once again, it’s simply too close to the election to undo the court of appeals’ mistake,” Bradley said. “In Wisconsin, there is always an impending election.”
Whether ballot boxes will be used for future elections in Wisconsin is uncertain. Based on Hagedorn’s vote Friday, he may be the deciding vote for future rulings.