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 June 18, 2024

Wisconsin Supreme Court Restricts Mobile Voting Yet Preserves Certain Absentee Ballot Sites

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently issued a pivotal decision impacting the state’s election protocols, addressing the legality of mobile voting units and alternate absentee ballot sites.

The Federalist reported that the court reinforced a lower court’s ruling prohibiting mobile voting while upholding the use of alternate absentee ballot sites that ensure non-partisan access.

The controversy began in Racine, where a mobile election unit, funded by donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, was utilized to facilitate voting.

The initiative, aimed at increasing voter turnout, quickly drew legal scrutiny over concerns of fairness and legality.

Racine’s Mobile Voting Van Controversy

Racine County Circuit Court Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz was the first to challenge the use of the mobile voting unit, citing its potential to provide a partisan advantage, which led to its subsequent ban. This decision set the stage for further judicial review at the state level.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission initially dismissed complaints against the use of Racine’s mobile voting van. However, their decision was overturned by the circuit court, intensifying the legal battle over mobile voting practices in Wisconsin.

The state Supreme Court's decision has now confirmed the lower court’s ban on mobile voting units, deeming them inconsistent with Wisconsin's established election laws. The ruling underscored the importance of maintaining consistent election practices that have been in place since 2016.

Justice Rebecca Bradley expressed dissent, critiquing the majority for their interpretation of the lower court’s ruling and advocating for a clearer distinction between staying a court order and a legal interpretation.

The court’s decision was influenced by concerns that changing election procedures close to upcoming elections could create confusion and disrupt election preparations. This sentiment was captured in the court’s assertion that maintaining the status quo would prevent potential election disruptions.

Impact on Alternate Absentee Ballot Sites

Despite the ban on mobile units, the Wisconsin Supreme Court allowed for the continuation of alternate absentee ballot collection sites. These sites are deemed acceptable as long as they do not offer a partisan advantage, promoting a fair electoral process.

This part of the ruling provides some flexibility in how absentee ballots can be collected, ensuring that all voters have equitable access to voting mechanisms without compromising the integrity of the election process.

Looking forward, the case is expected to receive a final ruling in the fall, which could potentially set a precedent for how mobile voting and absentee ballot collection are handled in future elections across Wisconsin and possibly other states.

Rick Esenberg from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty remarked on the decision’s alignment with statutory requirements, emphasizing that the ruling supports election integrity by adhering to established legal statutes.

Judge Gasiorkiewicz's comments during the proceedings highlighted the potential risks associated with unlawful voting practices, stating that unlawful procedures could degrade the foundation of free government by polluting the integrity of election results.

Meanwhile, Justice Bradley’s critical view of the majority’s decision-making process underscored ongoing debates within the judiciary regarding the interpretation and application of election laws.

Conclusion: A Complex Legal Landscape

In conclusion, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling marks a significant moment in the state’s election law history, balancing between upholding certain practices and restricting others.

The decision reaffirms the importance of adhering to established legal frameworks while also adapting to new challenges in election administration. As the legal battle continues, the outcomes of this case could have lasting implications for voter access and the integrity of elections in Wisconsin.

Written By:
Christina Davie

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