A judge in Wisconsin ruled Thursday that absentee ballot drop boxes cannot be used in the state, according to a report from The Washington Post.
The decision comes as Republicans and Democrats across the country square off over the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, with Republicans seeking to restrict their use and a failed attempt by congressional Democrats to compel states to allow them.
Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren agreed with a conservative organization that argued that the use of drop boxes is not specifically authorized by state law, even though the state Elections Commission had issued detailed guidance on their use.
"It’s all good and nice, but there’s no authority to do it," Bohren said from the bench, according to reports from local media.
Though the ruling is expected to be appealed, Bohren said he would issue an injunction soon ordering the Elections Commission to withdraw advice it had given to municipal clerks on the use of the boxes.
Republicans in numerous states have claimed that the use of ballot drop boxes invites fraud, while Democrats nationally have said they expand voter participation.
Expansive voting legislation passed Thursday by the U.S. House includes a requirement that states make secure drop boxes available.
Known as the "Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act," the legislation is almost certain to be blocked next week by Senate Republicans.
A Biden-backed plan to change filibuster rules in the Senate would allow the bill to pass with a simple majority and no Republican support, however, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona indicated Thursday that they will not support that strategy.
The use of drop boxes increased significantly nationwide in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former President Donald Trump objected to their use, taking legal action in some cases. In a Pennsylvania lawsuit, the Trump campaign argued that state officials "have exponentially enhanced the threat that fraudulent or otherwise ineligible ballots will be cast and counted."
The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty represented the plaintiffs in the Wisconsin suit.
"There are just two legal methods to cast an absentee ballot in Wisconsin: through the mail or in-person at a clerk’s office," Luke Berg, the organization’s deputy counsel, said in a statement Thursday. "We are pleased the court made this clear, providing Wisconsin voters with certainty for forthcoming elections."
The state has scheduled judicial primary elections next month, with the general elections for those races planned for April. The state’s primaries for other offices are scheduled for August, with the general election in November.
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