Supreme Court Won’t Extend Absentee Ballot Deadline In Wisconsin, Ballots Must Be In By Election Day

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In a 5-3 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with Wisconsin Republicans on Monday and rejected reinstating an order by a federal court judge that would allow absentee ballots to be counted if received within six days after the election so long as they were postmarked by Election Day.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who last week sided with liberal justices in allowing Pennsylvania to extend the ballot deadline, said  the two cases are not to be compared.

“Different bodies of law and different precedents govern these two situations and require, in these particular circumstances, that we allow the modification of election rules in Pennsylvania but not Wisconsin,” he wrote. (Pennsylvania Can Count Ballots With Or Without Postmarks Through Nov. 6 After Supreme Court Deadlocks)

Justice Neil Gorsuch agreed, noting the lower court ruling that said Wisconsin law violates the Constitution by requiring absentee voters to return their ballots no later than Election Day did not make sense.

“Elections must end sometime, a single deadline supplies clear notice, and requiring ballots be in by Election Day puts all voters on the same footing.”

“Our oath to uphold the Constitution is tested by hard times, not easy ones. And succumbing to the temptation to sidestep the usual constitutional rules is never costless,” Gorsuch continued. “Last-minute changes to longstanding election rules risk other problems too, inviting confusing and chaos and eroding public confidence in electoral outcomes.”

State Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt celebrated the court’s decision.

“Absentee voting in Wisconsin is extremely easy and hundreds of thousands of people have done it already – last minute attempts to change election laws only cause more voter confusion and erode the integrity of our elections.”

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled in September that absentee ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 could be counted through Nov. 9. Democrats argued that the pandemic posed additional challenges to voting by mail and warranted extra time.

“While the Legislature would opt to disregard the voting rights of these so-called procrastinators, Wisconsin’s election system sets them up for failure in the light of the near certain impacts of this ongoing pandemic,” Conley wrote.

Republicans argued the extension was necessary since voters had plenty of time to cast their ballots by Election Day and that the rules should not be changed so close to the election.

Earlier this month the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the extension, instead ruling to uphold existing state law which required absentee ballots to be delivered by 8 p.m. election night.