Sharing Your Ballot Drop Box Stories as the Wisconsin Supreme Court Weighs the Future of Drop Boxes
Right now in Madison and across the state, municipal, school board and judicial elections are underway. Madison has numerous in-person absentee voting locations open and operating (see locations, dates and times here) and Election Day is Tuesday, April 5. There are two important changes this election.
First, due to redistricting many people are seeing changes to their voting locations. Redistricting happens every 10 years after the national census is conducted to make sure our Aldermanic districts are the same size and preserve the principle of one-person one-vote. When too many people are packed into one district due to population growth, it dilutes their voting power. While change can be challenging, please be courteous when you call our City Clerk’s office to discuss these changes. They are just implementing the maps approved by the Common Council earlier this year.
Voters are encouraged to confirm the location of their polling place here.
Second, voters will not be able to use Madison’s ballot drop boxes this April. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has put drop boxes on hold for this election as they weigh legal arguments on the validity of drop boxes.
Let me be clear, I believe ballot drop boxes are a safe, convenient way for voters to vote, especially during a pandemic. I believe that drop boxes are 100% secure and legal, and our City attorneys will make sure our best legal arguments are presented to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
But you don’t have to believe me—read these drop box stories that Madison residents emailed me. More effectively than I ever could, these voters present the case that drop boxes are invaluable for vulnerable populations, folks who are ill or elderly, parents with young kids or special-needs kids, workers without job flexibility, people concerned about the U.S. post office, folks who do not drive and more.
I hear you Madison! The City Clerk’s office hears you and so does the City Attorney. Let’s hope the Wisconsin Supreme Court is listening.
Phil Hands, You Toons Caption Contest, Wisconsin State Journal https://madison.com/opinion/column/unbroken-caption-wins-this-this-weeks-contest/article_fa555190-11ee-57ed-a6a0-c18852829a5d.html
- Dear Mayor Satya, drop boxes were imperative during the Pandemic. A friend I was taking care of post hospitalization/rehabilitation from Covid pneumonia was only able to vote because there was a drop box. He was too weak to stand in line and wouldn't have had time to get an absentee by the time he was out of his post Covid rehab…. I don't understand why this is such a big deal to the Republicans. The drop boxes were at fire stations where firefighters are located 24/7.
- I have always been in the habit of voting early, usually walking down to the Central library. Have asked of the ballot be mailed to me as I am immunosuppressed and do not feel comfortable walking into buildings. The drop boxes were a huge help. I felt so much safer. I have enough complications that if I get COVID I am dead so I have to be super careful. Those drop boxes were life-saving for me. As my arthritis progresses and walking becomes ever more difficult, those drop boxes are going to become even more important.
- I am 75 and I was concerned about my absentee ballot getting lost in the mail. So I was very happy I could use the drop box near the Fire Station on Midvale. It was close to my home and easy to get to. Much easier than driving downtown to clerk’s office which I have done.
- I am pregnant and have a 2 year-old, whom I often have to bring to the polls with me to vote. In addition to putting all of us at risk for COVID (I'm vaccinated but immunocompromised; she is not able to be vaccinated), it's really hard to stand in long lines and take care of my voting business with an antsy and distracting toddler on my hip or running around the polling place. This will be even more difficult after the baby is born, when I will be juggling 2 kids under 3!
- I really appreciated never having to be enclosed indoors with people standing in lines and sharing the air space during that stressful and frightening time. I hope that our local and federal governments support this practice and make it available for all to ensure safe voting access.
- I used the Perry St location by the Fire Station on Badger Rd. It seemed more secure than leaving my ballot in my unlocked mailbox while awaiting USPS pick up. And as Postmaster DeJoy was fervently working on reducing mail service, it seemed my ballot would be received more quickly. I have gone to the clerk's office in the city county building to early vote in the past and found it onerous to drive through downtown traffic, find parking and then walk into the building. During the pandemic, I've drastically reduced time spent inside buildings anyway. So the drop box was a boon; I would have continued to use it had not the State Supreme Court made yet another partisan and illogical ruling.
- I used a drop box to vote last year. I was a bit late in completing my candidate research and feared a mailed ballot might not arrive in time. I am 78, have health issues that limit mobility, and I feel vulnerable during this pandemic, even though vaccinated and boosted. It was a gift to be able to drive to a nearby drop box and leave my ballot. My only suggestion would be to place the boxes so they are truly drive-by, the way mailboxes are placed. I was able to stop, walk around using my car for support, and drop the ballot. I did delay the person behind me, however…In a true democracy, voting should be made easier, not harder.
- I've used our drop boxes with complete confidence, especially during the pandemic. A drive of less than 1.25 miles to a drop box (vs. 6 miles to the City Clerk office) makes more sense for me (pandemic or not) *Save gas *Less air pollution *No parking issues *No traffic issues *No hours constraints *Not everyone drives (ie. elderly, economically challenged, younger voters, etc.) Removing drop boxes is blatant voter suppression and just another jab to our good democracy.
- Due to COVID-19 my husband and I decided to vote absentee in 2020… Because we were concerned that mail might not be trustworthy, as we had anticipated it would be, we decided to use our local ballot drop box. Each election we did so and felt no fear or concerns about how our ballot would be handled. I was able to see online when our ballots were checked in at the clerk’s office, so I know the service was fast. While we may return to in person voting for now, I know that age will eventually make that option less appealing, we aren't spring chickens anymore. I had looked forward to being able to place my ballot in a dedicated box knowing it would be picked up the same day and taken directly to the clerk's office. I hope that this convenient method of voting will be returned to the voters.
- As a person who has a very high risk of having a severe illness if contracting COVID-19, I was relieved to have a drop box available in my part of Madison (north side). This experience helped me to feel and actually be safe, as I was able to drive a few blocks to it and drop my ballot into a secure box. This was doubly important to me as my wife is also a high-risk person.
- Dear Mayor Satya, my middle child is moderately to severely affected with Autism and Bi Polar Affective disorder. Due to my husband's overnight hours of work and the difficulty [our child] experiences riding in our vehicle, the flexibility of a drop box works well for us. It helps us so much to not have the restraint of having to return our ballots during typical business hours. Thank you for everything you do for Madison.
- During the 2020 election, things were busy for my husband and me. His father died, and we were helping his mom clean out her house to get it ready to sell. We were able to drop off our ballots quickly, securely, and easily, which helped out a lot during a challenging time. My husband was also recovering from multiple surgeries for a bad infection in his leg. He would have had a hard time standing in long voting lines, and he didn’t want to risk being exposed while he was recuperating. Overall, we appreciated having options.
- I used to always vote in person, vying with another person to be first in line for every election. But with COVID-19, and then my retirement, voting absentee just made more sense, in terms of both practicality and public health/safety. As much as I like, and support, the U.S. Postal Service, it has become unreliable regarding on time delivery -- I've had packages make it to the city of their destination, only to be rerouted to another state! And something mailed at the Madison Post Office goes to Milwaukee before coming back to Madison for delivery… Denying voters an easy and secure way to return their ballots is reprehensible.
- I used a ballot drop box to drop off my ballot in last election because I felt it was more secure than USPS. I liked how secure the ballot box was. I was concerned about security before actually seeing the ballot box, and I was really impressed with how secure it was. I hope that ballot boxes can become standard operating procedures in future elections. I am angry that we have members of one political party who want to make voting more difficult and less accessible to voters. Voting should be easier.
In addition to the testimonies above, we of course got a few kibitzers. One commenter wrote “this is way too easy to load the box with fraudulent ballots not saying it always happens, but it can and does in many instances.” This comment is worth correcting.
I want to assure folks who do not know the details of election procedure that fake ballots would be quickly spotted, investigated and rejected. The Clerk’s office cannot count a vote or check in an absentee ballot if that voter did not follow the procedures to request an absentee ballot in the first place. Detailed records are kept to ensure our elections safe and secure; that is why there are so few cases of election fraud each year.
Stay tuned. Let’s hope the court comes to its senses on this issue.