WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, July 22, a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Wisconsin voters with disabilities challenging the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s (WEC) ban on ballot-return assistance for mail-in ballots. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently banned the use of drop boxes and most third-party ballot collection efforts, but did not rule on whether “the law permits a voter’s agent to place an absentee ballot in the mail on the voter’s behalf.” Following this decision, WEC issued a guidance stating that ballot return-assistance is no longer permitted for any method of absentee voting, including vote by mail.
The plaintiffs in this new lawsuit argue that the Teigen drop box decision, in combination with the WEC guidance, effectively bans ballot-return assistance under all circumstances and imposes an unfair and unequal burden on voters with disabilities who rely on assistance in order to cast their ballots. The lawsuit asks the court to declare that WEC’s application of the state’s absentee voting law, which forecloses all opportunities for voters with disabilities to utilize ballot-return assistance, violates the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act and the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs ask the court to allow Wisconsin voters with disabilities to receive ballot-return assistance for both mail and in-person methods of ballot return and to stop WEC from imposing this unfair limitation on voters with disabilities.