Tom Evslin: Wisconsin Supreme Court rules unattended voter drop boxes illegal — so what about Vermont?

This commentary is by Tom Evslin of Stowe, an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official. It is republished from the Fractals of Change blog.

Wisconsin Statute. § 6.87(4)(b)1: “The envelope shall be mailed by the elector, or delivered in person, to the municipal clerk issuing the ballot or ballots.” Also in the law is a provision for voting in a registered nursing home; special officials may be sent.

Do you read that sentence as authorizing unattended drop boxes into which ballots may be deposited? Neither did the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Just to close a loophole, the statutes do talk about alternative polling places (Wis. Stat. § 6.85) but make clear that these must be attended and are used instead of rather than in addition to the municipal clerk’s office.

Tom Evslin

Therefore, the court said, voting via the use of unattended drop boxes is not legal under Wisconsin law. The court did NOT say that drop boxes were a violation of either the US or Wisconsin constitution. The court did not say that properly authorized drop boxes were either a bad or good idea. It’s not up to the court to say what’s a good or bad idea. The court simply said that elections must be conducted according to the law as passed by the legislature. It did say that elections not conducted according to law lose legitimacy and erode respect for the democratic process.

Nevertheless, the ruling has been taken as a blow against open and fair elections. The New York Times says “The court adopted a literal interpretation of state law” but considers this a move to restrict voting access in urban areas. Not sure what sort of interpretation of state law the NYT would like the court to make if not a literal one; perhaps one which assures outcomes desired by the NYT? The normally more conservative Wall Street Journal also treats this as a political decision without mentioning the plain language of the law.

It might be a good idea if reporters retook that part of civics 101 which says that the courts are supposed to interpret law, not make it.

There is a reason why this decision has raised so much angst. The case came about because there were more than 500 such unattended drop boxes in use in Wisconsin during the 2020 election which Trump lost to Biden in that state. Trump’s allies claimed that these drop boxes facilitated fraud which cost him election. There is no evidence that this happened. The court did NOT rule that the 2020 election was invalid because the drop boxes were used. It said they should not be used again unless authorized by the Wisconsin legislature, which is currently unlikely. The decision does affect future elections but not those in the past.

The court is not supposed to make public policy so their job in this case is done, whether such drop boxes are desirable or not.

There is still a public policy question which needs to be decided by action or inaction of the Wisconsin legislature and the legislatures of other states. Should unattended drop boxes be allowed to make it as easy as possible to cast ballots?

I say No! Emergency measures made sense when the pandemic hit suddenly. It’s good that ballots cast in drop boxes were not thrown out in 2020. But the emergency is over. With hindsight or foresight, I can’t see why using a mailbox rather than a drop box causes a hardship to any would-be voter, especially in urban areas. I can easily see how, with two years to plan, bad actors on either side or even from abroad can think of ways to tamper with ballots in the drop boxes either to change an election result or to discredit the election itself. It’s a time of great mistrust. We cannot afford a discredited election. Mail-in ballots make it possible for more eligible people to vote; that’s good. It must also be demonstrably true beyond reasonable doubt that only legitimate ballots are counted.

Mail-in ballots should go in the US mail (postage paid, of course).

Image courtesy of TNR
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8 thoughts on “Tom Evslin: Wisconsin Supreme Court rules unattended voter drop boxes illegal — so what about Vermont?

  1. Everything Jimmy boy Condom has done to our voting laws in Vermont has made us a poster child for voting fraud

    As said above

    As much as Jimmy boy Condom claimed there was no fraud in Vt then how come there were 343,000 registered voters in Vt and 355.313 votes counted? That’s 12,313 extra votes and that was only 88% reporting… Yup, no fraud in Vermont..

    Get rid of the ballot boxes and insist on voter ID

  2. Everything Jimmy boy Condom has done to our voting laws in Vermont has made us a poster child for voting fraud

    DonnaB
    July 12, 2022 at 3:26 am

    Agree with both Lisa and Jay… As much as Jimmy boy Condom claimed there was no fraud in Vt then how come there were 343,000 registered voters in Vt and 355.313 votes counted? That’s 12,313 extra votes and that was only 88% reporting… Yup, no fraud in Vermont..

    Get rid of the ballot boxes and insist on voter ID

  3. Wisconsin made the right choice
    We are now pretty much Post Pan(Plan)demic; there is no need to continue this charade

  4. We dont allow criminal evidence to be just dropped off by investigators at the police station and sit around on someone’s desk next to the box of donuts for a few days before being filed. There are “chain of custody” rules that fall under strict scrutiny during trial. Unless we are willing to admit that our elections are not as important as our criminal justice system, there need to be strict rules regarding custody of ballots. Is that a “literal” enough argument for the NY Slimes?

  5. Agree with both Lisa and Jay… As much as Jimmy boy Condom claimed there was no fraud in Vt then how come there were 343,000 registered voters in Vt and 355.313 votes counted? That’s 12,313 extra votes and that was only 88% reporting… Yup, no fraud in Vermont..
    When I vote it’s in person and I ALWAYS show my picture driver’s license .no matter how many times they say “you don’t need to show an ID”..

    • Nice catch! 12,313 more Vermont votes COUNTED – than were actual registered VT voters? Fraud. But look at Arizona…the fraud was massive. The forensic audit found 73,000 more MAIL IN ballots, than were actually SENT OUT. Biden won AZ by 10,000 votes? In Maricopa County they also found mail in ballots done from color xerox machines and did not match the special paper used from the one manufacturer for all the AZ mail in ballots. More fraud. No one did anything about it.

  6. I am not that fond of Drop Boxes period! I have no faith in the Postal System either ! Would you mail cash? Most recently I have tracked a package of mine that was stated by USPS to have been delivered. (Dogs cancer meds) only to have it show up 1 week later on the ground next to my mailbox ! We need to stop this ” mail everyone a ballot” BS and lets all vote in person and do it the way we used to.

  7. According to Vermont voting law, voter drop boxes that are within view, or located on municipal property, do not require surveillance cameras. And there are no checks and balances when the ‘dropped’ ballots are collected. If a poll worker wants to, they can take an unsigned (and therefore illegal) ballot envelope and sign it themselves… with nothing more than a scribbled signature.

    In other words, there’s no accountability. My town uses the mail slot in the town hall front door as a drop box. It’s available 24/7. And when the issue is raised with town clerks, they are typically offended for anyone to think something nefarious might happen.

    Remember: these people are addicted to the status quo. And like any addict, they will do whatever it takes to support their habit – while telling you, and anyone who will listen, how they’ve cleaned up their act.

    Bottom line: that means there is still no accountability.

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