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Local clerks scramble to educate voters after judge bans mail-in ballot boxes

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Local clerks scramble to educate voters after judge bans mail-in ballot boxes

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) — A Waukesha judge’s decision to ban ballot boxes is being pushed back by local clerks scrambling to educate voters ahead of the spring primary election.

On Thursday, Waukesha County Judge Michael Bohren ruled ballot boxes illegal and banned voters from using more than 500 ballot boxes placed statewide.

The decision comes weeks before the Feb. 15 primary and days before tens of thousands of mail-in ballots are sent to voters.

“We’re going to have to scramble, mostly on education, because voters are going to think they can use a drop box,” Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said. “It’s really frustrating because it doesn’t make any sense at all.”

While an appeal of the decision is expected, this means for now that voters can only deliver their absentee ballot by mail or in person to their local clerk.

Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said that’s really putting voters and drop boxes in limbo for the upcoming election.

“Wisconsin has a history of getting these court rulings right before the election, which is confusing,” Woodall-Vogg said.

Drop boxes have become a popular option for voters over the past two years during the pandemic. Woodall Vogg said it gave voters “peace of mind” as many feared they would contract COVID-19 if they voted in person.

The attorneys who filed the lawsuit argue that the drop boxes should never have been allowed because there is nothing written about them in state law.

“You can search the law and you won’t find the word ‘drop box’ anywhere,” said Luke Berg, attorney at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. “There are no restrictions on where they can go, how many, how safe they are.”

Woodall-Vogg called Berg’s comments “ridiculous,” noting that all drop boxes in Milwaukee are monitored 24 hours a day, secure, and subject to strict chain of custody laws.

The city also spent $20,000 upgrading surveillance cameras to ensure they monitor drop boxes.

Republican lawmakers have tried to ban drop boxes since Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden by about 21,000 votes in Wisconsin.

They also passed a series of election bills to restrict early voting, limit who can return mail-in ballots and require additional documentation to prove someone is considered confined indefinitely.

All measures were blocked by Gov. Tony Evers, which Republicans say would have restored confidence in our election.

Democrats have long called these efforts an attack on democracy and instead advocate making it easier, not harder, for people to vote.


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