8th Circuit Court Of Appeals Rules Minnesota Ballot Extension Unconstitutional, Orders Late Ballots To Be Kept Separate

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The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision Thursday that Minnesota’s mail-in ballot deadline extension was unconstitutional.

Minnesota election law says ballots delivered after 8 p.m. on Election Day should be marked late. However, Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon extended the deadline by seven days, which the court ruled was a “direct contradiction” to standing law.

“However well-intentioned and appropriate from a policy perspective in the context of a pandemic during a presidential election, it is not the province of a state executive official to re-write the state’s election code, at least as it pertains to selection of presidential electors,” the decision read. “The rule of law, as established by the United States Constitution and the Minnesota Legislature, dictates these rules must be followed notwithstanding the Secretary’s instructions to the contrary. There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution.”

Simon extended the deadline after reaching a settlement with a citizens group that sued earlier in the year. Under the settlement, ballots can be counted through Nov. 10. Ballots missing a postmark would be considered to have been mailed Nov. 3 unless election officials had evidence suggesting they weren’t, according to Reuters.

The 8th Circuit sent the case back to a lower court while requiring election officials to separate mail-in ballots received after Nov. 3 because the court has yet to decide whether the ballots that come in after Election Day are legal and can be counted.

However, the court noted in its decision that voters should drop their mail-in ballots off at polling sites rather than send them through the mail. (RELATED: Supreme Court Rules North Carolina Can Accept Mail-In Ballots Up To 9 Days After Election)

“Better to put those voters on notice now while they still have at least some time to adjust their plans and cast their votes in an unquestionably lawful way,” the court said in its decision.

Former presidential candidate and Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar encouraged voters to drop off their ballots after the ruling.

“BREAKING: Because of LAST MINUTE ruling, Minnesota DO NOT put ballots in mail any more. In the middle of a pandemic, the Republican Party is doing everything to make it hard for you to vote. Stand up for YOUR rights: Vote in-person or take mail-in ballot directly to ballot box.”

The decision comes just a day after Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar ordered mail-in ballots received after Nov. 3 would be kept separate from other ballots in case the Supreme Court rules the state’s ballot extension is unconstitutional.