Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway Celebrates Wisconsin Supreme Court Ruling Reinstating Ballot Drop Boxes

An absentee drop box in front of a Madison firehouse

Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court restored the right to use safe and secure ballot drop boxes in the state of Wisconsin. The drop boxes were prohibited by the same court in 2022 when the body’s then-conservative majority decided in Teigen v. Wisconsin Elections Commission that because state law didn’t explicitly permit drop boxes, they’re not allowed. The decision reverses the previous rulings and allows localities across the state to once again permit voters to use this secure and convenient method of voting.

“I am so pleased that common sense has prevailed and that Wisconsin now has a high court interested in expanding voting rights rather than restricting them. The decision today affirms the importance of making voting easy and convenient for everyone - older adults, persons with disabilities, families with kids and others who might find it difficult to make it to the polls on election day,” said Mayor Rhodes-Conway. “Absentee voter drop boxes are a safe, secure and convenient way for voters to return their ballot. They are popular with voters of all types and have been successfully implemented by communities across the country for years.”

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said her office will alert the public when absentee ballots drop boxes are operational.

“The Clerk’s Office is in full swing to once again offer drop boxes as a secure option for Madison voters,” said Clerk Witzel-Behl. “The drop boxes won’t be up and running immediately. But we are working quickly.”

During the pandemic, the City of Madison worked diligently to make sure that every eligible voter could cast their ballot in a safe and secure manner. The Wisconsin State Legislature, on the other hand, failed to meet and failed to act to assist localities with the pandemic or with the expenses related to printing and processing tens of thousands of absentee ballots which were suddenly in high demand. In the face of this inaction, the City of Madison secured grant funding to help defray the cost of pandemic elections and to install 14 secure ballot drop boxes near fire stations around the city. The City successfully conducted multiple elections before we were forced to shutter the drop boxes, including the 2020 presidential election. During that election there were 528 drop boxes were in use in 66 Wisconsin counties, according to Wisconsin PBS.

The City anticipates that secure ballot drop boxes will once again be available for voters to use starting with the Aug. 13 primary election.

Additional Background

The July 8, 2022 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision banning drop boxes received national headlines. The decision is another in a long line of voter restrictions that has transformed Wisconsin over the years from one of the easier states to vote in to one of the hardest.

Knowing that future courts might reach a different verdict, the City decided not to discard the boxes but to cover the drop boxes in words of Sojourner Truth and the artwork of internationally known artist Jenny Holzer, who lifts the voice of many in hopeful messages about enduring democracy.

“Rather than removing these secure ballot drop boxes, we wanted to transform them to share the powerful words of Sojourner Truth and to convey our community’s belief in democracy, voting rights and the prevailing power of truth,” said Mayor Rhodes-Conway at the time.

In 2020, artist Jenny Holzer contributed her work for the YOUVOTE campaign and the City of Madison participated in this national get-out-the-vote effort by sharing her work for that project on kiosks, banners, murals and mobile billboards. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision, the City approached Holzer about redeploying the Sojourner Truth quote that Holzer highlighted during the campaign and gratefully acknowledge her consent and participation.

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