Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court broke with its own precedent, creating new barriers to the ballot box, and found that drop boxes, formerly a cornerstone to Wisconsin’s voting system, cannot be used in upcoming elections, including the one just weeks away. Today’s decision is a grave disappointment that unnecessarily burdens Wisconsinites casting their ballots.

Drop boxes have been a longtime tool used by our election administrators  to make voting more accessible for decades. Municipal clerks have relied on drop boxes to collect formal documents like tax returns, municipal bills, and absentee ballots across our state. Now, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin has created a new prohibition on using drop boxes for absentee ballots  despite the fact that this prohibition is found nowhere in the statutes. Thus, one of the safest, and most secure, inclusive, and fair ways to cast a ballot will not be available to Wisconsinites in upcoming elections. This decision will have far-reaching impact, especially in our rural communities where clerks’ office hours are often limited.

The Court issued a partial ruling on ballot return assistance. In person, that practice is now illegal, but it refused to address whether we can return each other’s absentee ballots through the mail. Although somewhat limited, the ruling is alarming. The Court reached its conclusion despite knowing that thousands of voters returned absentee ballots on behalf of their friends and family. Ballot return assistance has been explicitly legal under Wisconsin law for nearly seventy years. We expect this familiar method of absentee voting will continue to be under attack by those who are bent on creating additional barriers to the ballot box.

Still, it is important to recognize what this opinion does not do: federal protections with for voters with disabilities remain in place. Teigen has not prohibited ballot-return assistance (through the mail or in person) to the extent that federal law guarantees such assistance under the VRA, the ADA, or the Rehabilitation Act. These landmark laws were not disturbed by the opinion.

Today’s decision is an incredible disappointment for our state. In coordination with a hyper-partisan lead opinion, the extreme right-wing activists that brought this lawsuit have succeeded in creating new barriers to Wisconsin voters’ ability to safely and conveniently cast a ballot. Now more than ever, we must all begin making our plans to vote in the upcoming August and November elections.

Wisconsin once boasted of being our nation’s leading “laboratory of democracy.” Decisions like today’s are a reminder that such reputations are hard earned and easily lost. This fight is not over. We must look to the future and rebuild an open and fair democracy in Wisconsin.