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Federal Appeals Court Halts Wisconsin Extension For Ballot-Counting

Extension Would Have Allowed Ballots To Be Counted Until Nov. 9

worker loads a ballot into a machine
A worker loads a ballot into a machine at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office during a recount on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Lauderhill, Fla. Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

A federal appeals court has temporarily halted a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin.

The decision Sunday by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a momentary victory for Republicans and President Donald Trump in the key presidential battleground state.

As it stands, ballots will now be due by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

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On Wednesday, the Republican-led state Legislature filed the appeal, arguing existing Wisconsin laws sufficiently uphold the rights of voters. They said Wisconsin voters have plenty of time to receive and return ballots before the November election.

A lower court judge had sided with Democrats and their allies, who sued to extend the deadline until Nov. 9 due to challenges the coronavirus pandemic may pose to voters. Sunday’s action puts Judge William Conley’s order on hold until the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals or U.S. Supreme Court issues any further action.

Conley said his original ruling was informed by the experiences of voters during the April primary. Many voters reported receiving their absentee ballots after Election Day, and in Milwaukee and Green Bay, some in-person voters waited in line for up to four hours to cast their ballots after the cities struggled to recruit enough poll workers.

On Sunday, Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson told WISN-TV’s “Upfront” that he’s concerned about the state’s ability to manage the historic number of absentee ballots Wisconsin voters are expected to return before Election Day.

Johnson said he believes the state Legislature should pass a law permitting absentee ballots to begin being counted before Election Day. State law allows clerks to begin counting absentee ballots at 7 a.m. on Nov. 3.

“Do we have proper controls to make sure those ballots are valid, and they are counted on time?” he questioned.