Court blocks extension of Wisconsin absentee ballot deadline

MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) - A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a decision to extend the deadline for counting postal ballots on the Wisconsin battlefield by six days. This is a victory for Republicans who have tried to increase the number of votes across the country.
If the verdict is valid, postal ballot papers must be delivered to election officials in Wisconsin by 8:00 p.m. on election day when they are to be counted. The ruling makes it more likely that the results of the presidential race in the crucial swing state will be known within hours of the polls being completed.
Democrats will almost certainly appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court. A spokesman and attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Under state law, postal ballot papers are due in the offices of local employees by 8:00 p.m. on election night. But Democrats and Allied groups sued to extend the deadline after the April presidential primaries had long lines, fewer polling stations, a shortage of poll workers and thousands of ballot papers sent out days after the election. In Wisconsin, as in much of the country, massive postal votes will be held as early as November and the state expects up to 2 million people to vote absent.
US District Judge William Conley ruled last month that all ballots received in employees' offices by November 9th, as long as they are postmarked by November 3rd, will be counted. In that decision, Conley pointed out the high level of absenteeism and the possibility that it could overwhelm election officials and the postal service.
The 7th District Court justices initially upheld Conley's ruling on September 29 and rejected Republican intervention. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld this reputation, the same three-judge panel passed Thursday's ruling.
Judges Frank Easterbrook and Amy St. Eve voted to keep order and Ilana Rovner opposed.
“State lawmakers have two main arguments in favor of residence: First, that a federal court shouldn't change the rules so soon before an election; second, that political rather than judicial officials should be able to decide when a pandemic warrants changes to rules that are otherwise in effect, ”wrote the majority. "We agree with both of these arguments."
In a violent contradiction, Rovner highlighted the coronavirus threat to citizens in Wisconsin, currently one of the worst hot spots in the country. Conley developed a "limited, reasonable set of changes" to electoral rules in order to preserve "the precious suffrage of every Wisconsin citizen," she wrote.
"Today, amid a pandemic and significantly slowed mail delivery, this court is leaving voters to their own devices," she wrote. “Good luck and Gd blessings, Wisconsin. You will need it. "
Easterbrook was appointed by Ronald Reagan, St. Eve by Donald Trump. Rovner was founded by George H.W. Bush.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, part of the Republican leadership who successfully enforced the appeal of Conley's decision, described the reversal as "a great win for maintaining the integrity of our Wisconsin electoral process." He called a prolonged counting period "an absurd attitude" that would undermine confidence in the election.
The Rev. Greg Lewis, whose group Souls to the Polls is one of the plaintiffs, responded by asking people to vote.
"Our voices matter," said Lewis. "That's exactly why the Republicans are trying so hard to keep us from voting."
A spokeswoman for the State Democratic Party and a Democratic lawyer did not immediately respond to comments.
President Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by less than 1 percentage point - less than 23,000 votes. Polls show Democratic challenger Joe Biden has a slight head start in the state, but both sides expect a close race.
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That story has been corrected to show that the same three judges who ruled last month ruled again Thursday, not the full 11-court court.
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Associate press writer Doug Glass was from Minneapolis.
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