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GOP Lawmakers Ask Court To Overturn Extension To Mail-In Ballot Deadline

Wisconsin Republicans Appeal Federal Judge's Ruling Allowing 6 Extra Days To Count Ballots

election inspector alphabetizes and organizes absentee ballots
Chief election inspector Sharon Drefcinski alphabetizes and organizes absentee ballots that were received by mail at the municipal center in Rib Mountain, Wisconsin, during the partisan primary on Aug. 11, 2020. Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch

Republican state lawmakers have asked a federal appeals court to overturn recent extensions to Wisconsin’s deadlines for receiving absentee ballots and online voter registration ahead of November’s election.

The GOP-controlled Legislature filed the appeal Wednesday with the federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. It seeks to reverse a federal judge’s ruling earlier this week that extended by six days the period for clerks to count absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day. The previous mail-in ballot receipt deadline in Wisconsin was 8 p.m. on Election Day. The judge also extended the online voter registration deadline from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21.

The changes were granted in a lawsuit brought by the state and national Democratic Party and a coalition of advocacy groups. They argued some state election laws need to be altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic to make it easier for people to vote.

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Lawyers for the Legislature, Republican Party of Wisconsin and Republican National Committee argued existing Wisconsin laws sufficiently uphold Wisconsin voters’ rights, even amid a pandemic. They argued voters have ample time to request and return mail-in ballots and that in-person voting locations will be available for those who are comfortable with that option in November.

In Monday’s decision, federal Judge William Conley wrote the changes in his ruling were necessary to ensure “tens of thousands of voters” aren’t disenfranchised in the state.

Conley issued a similar order in a different election lawsuit in April, ahead of that month’s presidential primary.

According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, 79,000 additional ballots were counted in April thanks to the court’s six-day ballot receipt extension and tens of thousands utilized an extended online voter registration window. However, problems with postmarks did create confusion for some election officials.

In the April case, an appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court upheld much of Conley’s decision.