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Wisconsin election officials approve best practices for operating absentee ballot drop boxes

The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission unanimously approved a set of guidelines to ensure the security of unstaffed absentee ballot drop boxes. The news follows a recent ruling by the state Supreme Court that allows drop boxes to be widely used for the 2024 elections without being limited to specific locations. This year, Wisconsin is expected […]

The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission unanimously approved a set of guidelines to ensure the security of unstaffed absentee ballot drop boxes.

The news follows a recent ruling by the state Supreme Court that allows drop boxes to be widely used for the 2024 elections without being limited to specific locations.

This year, Wisconsin is expected to be one of the few swing states.


Since former President Donald Trump lost the state to President Joe Biden by just under 21,000 votes in 2020, the use of drop boxes has become a partisan issue. However, in this election, Republicans have reversed their opposition to the practice, saying that, to be competitive, they must embrace all voting methods that are legal in a state, including mail-in and drop boxes.

A person drops off a vote-by-mail ballot at a dropbox in Pioneer Square during primary voting on May 21, 2024, in Portland, Oregon. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

The approved best practices, which will be distributed to the state’s 1,800 local election officials, outline methods to ensure drop boxes and their surroundings are safe, well-lit, and accessible to voters. However, these guidelines are not mandatory.

Even though these recommendations do not specify regular intervals, they encourage clerks to empty drop boxes before they become full.

In addition, clerks are encouraged to document when the drop box is emptied, who did it, and the number of ballots retrieved.

The guidelines also recommend that drop boxes be clearly labeled and that any damage be recorded and inspected to ensure the box remains safe for use.

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Clerks should ensure that voters are informed about the locations of drop boxes and the deadline for the last ballot retrieval.

A worker at the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections works to process absentee ballots on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The elections commission chose not to implement an emergency rule with legal force, opting instead to issue guidelines following the court’s ruling allowing unstaffed drop boxes in all elections, including the Aug. 13 primary and Nov. 5 general election.

In 2022, the state Supreme Court, then controlled by conservatives, restricted the use of drop boxes to election clerk offices, prohibiting their placement at unstaffed locations.

After the court shifted to their control, Democrats challenged the ruling, which was overturned by the court last week.

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Last month, Biden’s reelection team urged leading Republicans to drop litigation over mail-in voting, citing Trump’s recent endorsement of the method.

While Trump has previously expressed opposition to mail-in ballots, his 2024 campaign launched a new initiative, the “Swamp the Vote” campaign, to promote mail-in voting as a convenient option for people and boost participation among their supporters.

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