Nothing about voting by absentee ballot has changed in Superior - only way you need to send them in in order for them to count in the election.  A recent ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the stay on ballot drop boxes, realigning practices by local election officials to match state statute.

The boxes - like the ones located behind the Government Center in Superior on the north side of the building - were never legally allowed under Wisconsin Statute 6.87.  That section - which deals with "Absent Voting Procedure" clearly states:

"[Ballot envelopes] shall be mailed by the elector, or delivered in person, to the municipal clerk issuing [them]."

A ballot drop box - where the voter leaves an unattended ballot for someone else to collect and deliver to the clerk - would by definition be illegal.

Attorneys associated with the case have even taken the issue of drop boxes one step further, suggesting that because they are not a legal means of delivering a ballot, someone using them would be committing a crime by violating the states election fraud statute [12.13]:

"[That statute states that it would be punishable by six months in jail to] receive a ballot from or give a ballot to a person other than the election official in charge."

The drop boxes - like the ones used in Superior - came to fruition during the pandemic.  According to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall] "the Wisconsin Elections Commission issued guidance to clerks allowing the use of absentee ballot drop boxes" stating in March and April 2020.  The guidance was a means of easing election efforts during the pandemic with shutdowns and social distancing the expectation.

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

However, the guidance quickly came under scrutiny as Wisconsin statute did not allow it.  An early challenge to the drop box usage was originated in Waukesha County.  In that case, the judge issued a "summary judgement" that "absentee ballot drop boxes were not permitted under state law and the 2020 Wisconsin Election Commission guidance was invalid".

An appeal was submitted and the District 4 Court of Appeals revered the stay issued by the Waukesha County judge - allowing drop boxes.  However, this ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court has now reversed that reversal, meaning that absentee ballot drop boxes won't be allowed for elections in the state - starting with the April 5 election.

Locally, Superior election officials are urging voters who utilize the absentee process to use the legal means of returning those ballots:  either by return mail or by hand delivering the ballot in person to the City Clerk's office for recording.

Man open ballot he got in the mail

One thing that's worth noting:  Some questions have arisen as to whether or not the drop boxes that have been in place and in use for election ballots at the Government Center in Superior would be removed.  They won't - and that has the potential for confusion for some.  The original purpose of the boxes was to allow for collection of payment for both the City of Superior and Douglas County.  In other words - they weren't installed for use as election ballot drop boxes.  To help notify voters that they can't legally leave ballots in them, the city is "includ[ed] a note with absentee ballots to inform the public of the change".  They're also "considering other options to discourage voters from leaving their ballots in the boxes in front of the Government Center".

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