MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin Supreme Court will soon weigh in on whether or not current state law allows for help returning a ballot.
Lately, conversations about banning the use of absentee ballot drop boxes have attracted a lot of attention, but when it comes to returning a ballot, it's not just about how people are allowed to do so. It is also just as much about who is allowed to return one on behalf of someone else.
Martha Chambers of Milwaukee has relied on assistance for decades, and, for her, fewer options feel like a punishment.
Twenty-seven years ago, a horseback riding accident left Chambers paralyzed from the neck down. However, that doesn't hold her back.
She uses a mouth stick to write, which is how she fills out her absentee ballot too. Chambers said the chance of accessibility challenges at her polling location, as well as uncooperative weather conditions, make it difficult to leave her home.
“I can fill out the ballot," Chambers explained. "However, putting it into an envelope, handing it in, is something I can't do."
State law, however, could expect her to. With a legal battle at play, Chambers is waiting to find out if a caregiver or loved one will be able to put her ballot in the mail.
“How do you ask somebody to commit a crime for you” Chambers asked.
In June 2021, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Waukesha County voters.
A Waukesha County judge ruled in January that ballot drop boxes were not allowed under state law, and voters must return absentee ballots themselves.
That decision was put on hold by an appeals court for the February primary, but the ban was in effect for the April spring election.
“They literally have taken my ability to vote away from me, which is ridiculous,” Chambers said.
Basically, the case comes down to how state law outlining the absentee ballot process is interpreted.
According to state statute, “The envelope shall be mailed by the elector, or delivered in person, to the municipal clerk issuing the ballot or ballots.”
Now, like so many, Chambers awaits a ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in April and is expected to issue a ruling in June or July.
“I don't need more hassles in my life,” Chambers said. “It's hard enough to get up every day, much less have one more thing on my plate.”
Though Chambers still plans to vote, she knows the ruling could impact whether or not a vote like hers will count, and is worried other won't even cast theirs in the first place.