Judge Rules Ballots Must Be Accepted After Election Day

In a federal ruling, a district court judge said clerks must accept absentee ballots received up to six days after the election, as long as the ballots are postmarked Nov. 3. The ruling is temporarily stayed however, giving time for defendants to appeal the ruling.

By Frederica Freyberg

September 21, 2020

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Western District of Wisconsin Courthouse Feb. 16, 2017.

With just 43 days before the November election, a federal judge Monday extended the deadline by which absentee ballots in Wisconsin must be received.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled that the deadline for clerks to receive absentee ballots from voters should be extended until Nov. 9 for all ballots mailed and postmarked on or before Election Day, Nov. 3. The deadline to receive absentee ballots is usually 8 p.m. on Election Day.

The judge also extended by a week the deadline for online and mail-in registration to Oct. 21.

He made several other rulings, including directing government websites MyVote and WisVote to include language which explains that voters using the indefinitely confined exception “[do] not require permanent or total inability to travel outside of the residence.”

The case was brought by the Democratic National Committee seeking election changes in a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and heavy use of absentee ballots.

“Today’s decision is a win for democracy, paving the way for thousands of legally registered Wisconsin voters to safely and securely participate in the general election,” said Angela Lang, whose group Black Leaders Organizing for Communities was among the plaintiffs in the suit.

“We can’t let a pandemic, or any other threat, diminish the ability of voters to participate in the most fundamental aspect of our democracy, casting a ballot.”

Conley’s ruling could be taken up by the U.S. Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court. He stayed the preliminary injunction for seven days to give defendants, including the Republican National Committee, the opportunity for an emergency appeal.

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