Unattended drop boxes illegal, state Supreme Court rules

NY Times deplores court’s “literal” interpretation of law

by Tom Evslin

What Did the Wisconsin Supreme Court Do? You be the judge.

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.

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?– Tom Evslin

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.

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. Mailin 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).

The author, an author, entrepreneur, former Vermont state cabinet officer, lives in Stowe. He founded NG Advantage, a natural gas truck delivery company. This commentary is republished with permission from his blog, Fractals of Change.

Categories: Commentary

3 replies »

  1. 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?

  2. Absentee ballots have always been available for those in need simply by requesting one. That is the way it should remain. The integrity of elections and their results have been questioned for a long time. In recent history many (including democrats and the mainstream media) have questioned the bush/gore 2000 election, proven false 2016 russian collusion theories, 2018 midterms when now VP harris brought a voting machine to the house floor and proved it was hackable in a matter of minutes, etc., etc. In 2020 secretaries of state, including jim condos illegally altered election laws, bypassing the Constitutional legislative process. Our country changed the entire voting process which no doubt opened many doors for election malfeasance. Theres no way sending out and receiving hundreds of millions of ballots by mail is as secure as election processes of the past. At ballot counting facilities some were told to go home at 4am and counting would resume later in the morning while others stayed to tally ballots. Some vote counting facilities were boarded up so no one could monitor the tally process. It took a historic weeks to tally ballots where in past elections results are complete in a day. All under the blanket of covid. I can not prove the results of the 2020 election were incorrect. I can undoubtedly prove the process was rigged, or atleast compromised, and based on the parameters and drastic changes to the traditional election process, saying this was the most safe and secure election in history is the true big lie. I would argue this was most certainly the least safe and secure election in history. Those claiming that it was the most safe and secure election in history cannot quantify their argument. There is no metric, neither federal agency that measures election integrity. If you disagree, please list the second and third most safe and secure elections in history and what data supports that. And the worst part is, as a nation, this puts us in a very dangerous situation if doubt in integrity of an election has become near criminal, where as in the past the open discussion has always been allowed, often initiated by the same people now claiming its bad think. This is a hallmark step in the direction of authoritarian rule, like so many others the current regime has taken. God help us.

  3. First I’d like to ask why you are still reading the NYT or any main stream media newspapers at all. They are all owned by the same companies and they lie to you directly to your face and spin everything just like they have here.

    Second I would not say that there is no evidence, 2000 mules itself showed enough evidence to prove otherwise and here is testimony in Wisconsin to the legislature for this:

    Third to anyone that wants to say that this isn’t evidence consider this: The evidence for the cheating is stronger than the evidence for the vote itself since the votes have no chain of custody but the cell phones are digitally and forensically (enough to admit in court) tracked.

    Like it or not our election was stolen and no matter who you vote for or how you feel about that it cannot continue to happen if we want a free country run by the people. Who knows how long this has been going on and how much better our lives could have been. What I do know is that this administration is hell bent on destroying our sovereignty, our freedom, and our bank accounts and if we want to fix this we need a fair election and we need good people to get off their couch help get other good people into office and get out and vote, especially in VT. When that is done we need good people to count the elections manually and verify that it was free and fair.

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