The 2020 election was full of chaos and irregularities. States across the country changed election policies and procedures last minute. Due to the pandemic, election officials claimed these emergency actions and deviations from election laws were necessary.
In 2020, the Wisconsin Elections Commission authorized “municipal clerks and local elections officials to establish ballot drop boxes” and said that people acting on behalf of the voter could deliver his or her ballot to these drop boxes.
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg gave millions of dollars to election offices to change election procedures and fuel vote-by-mail efforts. The Capital Research Center uncovered that the Center for Technology and Civic Life, the non-profit Zuckerberg funneled his money through, gave Wisconsin election offices at least $6.7 million in 2020.
Much of this $6.7 million was used to set up drop boxes, which fueled ballot harvesting. Ballot harvesting refers to a person returning ballots that are not their own. For example, you go to a drop box and return your ballot, your husband’s, and your two neighbors’.
These changes expanding drop boxes and allowing ballot harvesting drew much ire and complaints in 2020. President Trump and many others criticized drop boxes as being less secure than in-person voting.
Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court delivered a win for election integrity and strengthened the security of Wisconsin’s elections. In a 4-3 ruling, the court ruled that drop boxes will only be allowed at the offices of election clerks.
The court ruled that the Wisconsin Elections Commission does not have the power to enact and change election laws. This power belongs to the state legislature.
Under Wisconsin law, drop boxes are illegal. The law requires absentee ballots to be returned by mail, or the voter must personally deliver them to the municipal clerk. This ruling upheld the rule of law in elections: Election laws cannot be suspended before an election. That leads to chaos and distrust in results.
This is not the first state to have violated its own laws in the 2020 election.
Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania court struck down the commonwealth’s mail-balloting law. The law passed in December 2019, and legalized no-excuse absentee voting.
The universal mail-voting law violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. The commonwealth’s Constitution requires a person to vote on Election Day unless they meet certain criteria. Changing the mail-balloting laws in Pennsylvania would require a constitutional amendment.
Pennsylvanians should think twice before passing a constitutional amendment for universal vote by mail. The vote-by-mail system was a complete failure in 2020. According to federal data, the commonwealth lost track of more ballots than the difference in votes between Trump and Biden.
Also in 2020, Pennsylvania set a record for the highest number of rejected mail ballots by election officials. Mail balloting leads to disenfranchisement because errors are not able to be fixed in person like they are at the polls.
For instance, if you forget to sign your ballot at the polls, an election worker can point the error out and allow you to sign the ballot. But with vote by mail, there is no way for the voter to fix the error once the ballot has been sent.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin violated their own election laws and procedures in 2020. These two important rulings emphasize the necessity of the rule of law in elections, in order to achieve basic election integrity. Elections need to be conducted by the book so the American people can trust the results.
J. Christian Adams is the President of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a former Justice Department attorney, and current commissioner on the United States Commission for Civil Rights.