Wisconsin Supreme Court’s horrible ruling on absentee voting

February 14, 2022 6:45 am
Sign on wall reads voting and points toward an election site

Photo illustration by Justin Grimes (Photo via Flickr | CC-BY-SA 2.0).

On Friday afternoon the Wisconsin Supreme Court made a really bad decision.

It refused to extend a stay on a ridiculous circuit court decision not only on the use of drop boxes through the April 5 elections in Wisconsin, but also on the ability of people to get assistance in the delivery of their absentee ballots for the April  elections.

So while drop boxes and delivery assistance are still OK in Tuesday’s elections, they won’t be OK on April 5.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court didn’t rule on the merits of the two issues themselves, which it will be taking up in the coming weeks.

But it cavalierly stated that the Wisconsin Elections Commission “can comply with the circuit court’s order so as to ameliorate concerns about voter confusion and election administration before the April 5, 2022 election commences.”

In her dissent, joined by the other two liberals on the court, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley made mincemeat of this flimsy claim.

“It is unlikely, if not impossible, that the Commission can accomplish all the necessary steps to timely implement the circuit court’s order,” she wrote. “The April election is imminent. Municipal clerks may begin to send out ballots for the April election any time between February 16 and March 15. In areas without a spring primary, that date is even earlier and has in fact already passed.”

Are they going to have to reprint all those ballots now with new instructions on drop boxes and on whether you can get assistance in delivering your absentee ballot?

“The potential for voter confusion is a near certainty,” Justice Bradley wrote.

The issue of whether you can assistance in delivering your absentee ballot is especially vexing for voters with disabilities.

As Justice Bradley explained: “The circuit court’s decision that only a voter, and not another person, must mail or deliver the elector’s ballot, such an order, if not stayed, occasions a grievous harm. Even looking past the confusion it engenders, it could have the effect of disenfranchising some disabled voters who cannot otherwise mail or deliver their ballots themselves. Such voters would be completely foreclosed from participating in the April 5 election, a harm that cannot be undone. Putting aside the fact that the circuit court’s restriction may violate federal law, that such disenfranchisement is a grave irreparable harm should be beyond debate.”

So beware: Under the circuit court’s order, and now under this new Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling, you’ll be committing a crime if you simply take your spouse’s absentee ballot and put it in the mailbox with your own for the April 5 elections.

The case is called Teigen vs. Wisconsin Elections Commission. Those asking for the stay included Disability Rights WisconsinWisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.


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Matt Rothschild
Matt Rothschild

Prior to joining the Democracy Campaign at the start of 2015, Matt worked at The Progressive magazine for 32 years. For most of those, he was the editor and publisher of The Progressive.