Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court ruled Friday that absentee ballot drop boxes may be placed only in election offices and that no one other than the voter can return a ballot in person, dealing a defeat to Democrats who said the decision would make it harder to vote in the battleground state.
However, the court didn’t address whether anyone other than the voter can return his or her own ballot by mail. That means that anyone could still collect multiple ballots for voters and, instead of using a drop box, put them in the mail.
Republicans have argued that practice, known as ballot harvesting, is ripe with fraud although there has been no evidence of that happening in Wisconsin. Democrats and others argue that many voters, particularly the elderly and disabled, have difficulty returning their ballots without the assistance of others.
Supporters argue drop boxes are a better option than mailing ballots because they go directly to the clerks and can’t be lost or delayed in transit.
The decision sets absentee ballot rules for the Aug. 9 primary and the fall election; Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are seeking reelection in key races.
Johnson and other Republicans hailed it as a win for voter integrity.
“This decision is a big step in the right direction,” Johnson said.
Evers and other Democrats said the ruling will make it more difficult for people to vote.
“It’s a slap in the face of democracy itself,” said Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler.
The court’s 4-3 ruling also has critical implications in the 2024 presidential race, in which Wisconsin will again be among a handful of battleground states. President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in 2020 by just under 21,000 votes, four years after Trump narrowly won the state by a similar margin.
New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams and an attorney in his law firm pleaded not guilty to federal tax fraud charges on Friday.
Williams, 47, and Nicole Burdett, 39, appeared remotely before a federal magistrate judge and entered their pleas to charges of conspiracy, preparing false or fraudulent tax returns and failing to file tax forms related to cash received, news outlets reported.
The two were charged in an 11-count indictment last month following a yearslong investigation led by the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI.
Williams, a criminal defense lawyer, was accused of inflating his business expenses from 2013 to 2017 in order to reduce his tax liability by more than $200,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana. The indictment also alleged Williams and Burdett, an attorney in Williams’ law office who also handled administrative duties, failed to file the proper reports on cash payments from clients totaling $66,516.
Williams’ attorney, Billy Gibbens, has contended his client was just following the advice of his tax preparer, saying the accountant made the errors on his own, according to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. Michael Magner, an attorney for Burdett, also said his client was innocent and did not have any role in the tax decisions.
Williams and Gibbens raised questions about the timing of the indictment as Williams prepares to challenge Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro for the top prosecuting role. The campaign qualifying period for the Nov. 3 election is set to end July 24. Williams has said he still plans to run for the seat, according to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. A preliminary trial date for the case was set for Sept. 14.
Prosecutors have asked the Netherlands' Supreme Court to clarify legal matters in a landmark euthanasia case, saying Thursday they want to lay down unambiguous jurisprudence for the future.
The Public Prosecution Service said by instituting "cassation in the interest of the law" proceedings they aim to clarify how doctors deal with euthanasia on "incapacitated patients" without subjecting a doctor acquitted at a trial to a new legal battle.
Prosecutors said in a statement they want "legal certainty to be created for doctors and patients about this important issue in euthanasia legislation and medical practice."
The retired nursing home doctor was cleared earlier this month by judges in The Hague who ruled that she adhered to all criteria for carrying out legal euthanasia when she administered a fatal dose of drugs to a 74-year-old woman with severe dementia.
The cassation proceedings mean that the doctor's acquittal will not be called into question.
The doctor carried out euthanasia on the woman in 2016, acting on a written directive the patient had drawn up earlier. The woman later gave mixed signals about her desire to die, but the doctor, in close consultation with the woman's family, decided to go ahead with the mercy killing.
The Hague District Court ruled that in rare cases of euthanasia on patients with severe dementia - and who had earlier made a written request for euthanasia - the doctor "did not have to verify the current desire to die."
Prosecutors said they disagreed with the Hague court and want the Supreme Court to rule on legal issues in the case.
A union representing teachers and other school employees is taking a rare step by supporting a Republican for the Michigan Supreme Court.
The Michigan Education Association is recommending three candidates who are running for two seats on the court, including Justice Elizabeth Clement (Kla-MENT'). She was appointed to the Supreme Court last year by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
The union also is recommending Sam Bagenstos and Megan Cavanagh, who were nominated by the Democratic Party. Voters can pick two of six candidates in the race. Party affiliations won't be listed on the ballot.
Public affairs director Doug Pratt says the MEA is pleased with some of Clement's decisions, including one that gives schools the authority to ban guns carried by visitors. It was a 4-3 opinion.