Appeals court halts Wisconsin's plan to extend mail-in ballot deadline

9 months ago 42
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Oct. 9 (UPI) -- The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has put a halt to plans in Wisconsin to allow absentee ballots to be counted if they are received up six days after November's general election.

In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled in favor of the Wisconsin legislature, the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Wisconsin and reversed a federal court's decision to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin thanked the court Thursday for its "speedy decision."

"The law is the law and Wisconsin Republicans will continue to make sure that it is followed to ensure the integrity of this election," Andrew Hitt, chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, said in a statement.

Last month, U.S. District Judge William Conley extended the deadline for voter registration from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21 and for the receipt of absentee ballots to Nov. 9 as long as they are postmarked by the Nov. 3 election day.

On Thursday, the Seventh Circuit Court reversed Conley's decision, citing the Supreme Court, which has said federal courts should not change election rules close to an election.

"If the judge had issued an order in May ... it could not be called untimely," Judges Frank Easterbrook and Amy St. Eve, both appointed by Republican presidents, said in their majority ruling. "By waiting until September, however, the district court acted too close to the election."

The judges also said that orders issued by judges have consistently been stayed by the court amid the coronavirus pandemic as such rule changes are for politicians.

"The Court has consistently stayed orders by which federal judges have used COVID-19 as a reason to displace the decisions of the policymaking branches of the government. It has stayed judicial orders about elections, prison management and the closure of businesses," the ruling said. "Deciding how best to cope with difficulties caused by disease is principally a task for the elected branches of government."

In her dissenting opinion, Judge Ilana Rovner, who was appointed by Republican President George H.W. Bush, called the decision "a travesty," describing Conley's order as "a limited, reasonable set of modifications."

"Today, by granting that stay, the court adopts a hands-off approach to election governance that elevates legislative prerogative over a citizen's fundamental right to vote," she said. "At a time when judicial intervention is most needed to protect the fundamental right of Wisconsin citizens to choose their elected representatives, the court declares itself powerless to do anything."

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