US appeals court blocks extension of Wisconsin’s absentee ballot deadline

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A US appeals court voted Thursday to block a federal judge’s ruling that would have extended Wisconsin’s deadline for returning mail-in ballots.

In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with state Republicans in striking down the extension that would have allowed ballots to be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and received within the six following days, by Nov. 9.

Under the ruling, voters in Wisconsin — a critical state swing state for the presidential election — must now ensure their mail-in ballots are received before the polls close on Nov. 3, or else they will be disqualified.

The judges in their decision said the September extension was implemented too close to Election Day and that the policy change should be codified through state legislation, not the courts.

“If the judge had issued an order in May based on April’s experience, it could not be called untimely,” the majority wrote. “By waiting until September, however, the district court acted too close to the election.”

The ruling put the extension on hold until the case is fully resolved — though that’s unlikely to happen before Nov. 3.

Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File

Democrats have pushed mail-in voting as a way to allow Americans to safely cast their vote during the coronavirus pandemic. But President Trump has relentlessly attacked mail-in voting, labelling it rife for fraud and a ploy for his Democratic rival Joe Biden to steal the election.

The dissenting appeals court judge, Ilana Rovner, called the decision a “travesty” and suggested that inaction by the Republican-led state legislature will put lives at risk, Politico reported.

“The right to vote is a right of national citizenship … It is essential to the vitality of our democratic republic,” Rovner wrote. “No citizen of Wisconsin should be forced to risk his or her life or well-being in order to exercise this invaluable right. Wholesale deference to a state legislature in this context essentially strips the right to vote of its constitutional protection.”

With Post wires