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Court blocks extension of Wisconsin absentee ballot deadline
Legal Watch | 2020/10/09 03:37
A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a decision to extend the deadline for counting absentee ballots by six days in battleground Wisconsin, in a win for Republicans who have fought attempts to expand voting across the country. If the ruling stands, absentee ballots will have to be delivered to Wisconsin election clerks by 8 p.m. on Election Day if they are to be counted.

The ruling makes it more likely that results of the presidential race in the pivotal swing state will be known within hours of poll closing.  Democrats almost certainly will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. A spokesman and an attorney didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Under state law, absentee ballots are due in local clerks’ offices by 8 p.m. on election night. But Democrats and allied groups sued to extend the deadline after the April presidential primary saw long lines, fewer polling places, a shortage of poll workers and thousands of ballots mailed days after the election. Wisconsin, like much of the rest of the country, is already seeing massive absentee voting for November and the state expects as many as 2 million people to vote absentee.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled last month that any ballots that arrive in clerk’s offices by Nov. 9 will be counted, as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3. In that ruling, Conley noted the heavy absentee load and the possibility it could overwhelm election officials and the postal service.

The 7th Circuit Court judges initially upheld Conley’s ruling  on Sept. 29, rejecting the Republicans’ standing to intervene. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed that standing, the same three-judge panel delivered Thursday’s ruling. Justices Frank Easterbrook and Amy St. Eve voted to stay the order and Ilana Rovner opposed.


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