As you may have seen, this morning the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Teigen v. Wisconsin Elections Commission case. Here is additional information for your reference.
What was the background on the case?
Teigen began at the Waukesha Circuit Court. The original ruling stated that both unstaffed drop boxes and the return of a ballot by someone other than the elector, whether by-mail or in-person, (“ballot harvesting”) were not permitted under current Wisconsin law. The circuit court then ordered the Wisconsin Elections Commission to withdraw all memos related to drop boxes and issue a statement to clerks notifying them that the commission’s interpretation of statute permitting drop boxes was not consistent with Wisconsin law.
The case was then appealed by the defendants to the court of appeals. The appeals court issued a stay on the circuit court ruling, which essentially put on hold the circuit court’s ruling for the February primary. The plaintiffs filed a petition to bypass the appeals court and bring the case directly before the Wisconsin State Supreme Court (“SCOWIS”). That petition was granted by SCOWIS. SCOWIS allowed for the appeals court’s stay on the circuit court’s ruling to remain in place for the February 2022 spring primary, but not the April 2022 spring election. At the time, only the Wisconsin Elections Commission was bound to the circuit court’s ruling (as the one party to the case), not all 1,900 municipal clerks. As a result, municipal clerks had discretion on how to follow (or not) the original ruling.
The Republican National Committee, Republican Party of Wisconsin, and National Republican Senatorial Committee filed a brief supporting the plaintiff’s case.
Oral arguments were then heard by SCOWIS on April 13, 2022.
What did the SCOWIS ruling say?
The majority opinion by SCOWIS in Teigen v. Wisconsin Elections Commission can be summed up by this conclusion:
¶87 Only the legislature may permit absentee voting via ballot drop boxes. WEC cannot. Ballot drop boxes appear nowhere in the detailed statutory system for absentee voting. WEC's authorization of ballot drop boxes was unlawful, and we therefore affirm the circuit court's declarations and permanent injunction of WEC's erroneous interpretations of law except to the extent its remedies required absentee voters to personally mail their ballots, an issue we do not decide at this time, and we decline to decide at this time whether the memos are also invalid as unpromulgated administrative rules.
By the Court. — The judgment and order of the Circuit Court is affirmed.
Practically, what does this mean for voters and election officials?
This ruling stated that drop boxes, whether staffed or unstaffed, are illegal under Wisconsin law.
Additionally, no one other than the voter may return their ballot in-person to the municipal clerk or a designated alternate site. However, the court did not address whether other individuals can mail a voted ballot back to the municipal clerk on behalf of the voter.
Wisconsin Election Integrity State Director
Republican National Committee