Federal Court Delivers Victory For Mail-In Voting Rights In Wisconsin


A federal appeals court — a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, to be exact — has upheld a recent ruling that extended the deadline for election authorities in Wisconsin to receive returned mail-in ballots to be counted. In a recent ruling, U.S. District Judge William Conley extended the deadline for authorities to receive the returned ballots to November 9, although the ballots still must be postmarked by Election Day. The extension would help compensate for recent slowdowns in mail delivery and ensure that voters could still have their voices heard if issues cropped up in the timely delivery of their ballots that were no fault of their own.

Besides the extension of the deadline for receiving returned mail-in ballots, Conley also added an extra week to the deadline for voter registration in the state, and he ruled that poll workers could serve anywhere rather than only in their home communities. (Allowing for transplanted poll workers could help get around potential Election Day and early voting staffing shortages.) Conley issued his original ruling in response to four lawsuits brought by Democrats and their allies, and Republicans appealed that original ruling, but the three-judge panel on the federal appeals court that took up the case concluded that the Republicans did not have the legal standing to appeal the ruling in the first place.

The three-judge panel, which ruled unanimously, concluded that the national Republican Party and its state affiliate “do not suffer any injury caused by the judgment.” The judges added that state legislators “must leave to the executive officials of the state, such as a governor or attorney general, the vindication of the state’s interest in the validity of enacted legislation.” Executive officials in Wisconsin had not attempted to contend with Conley’s earlier ruling, but Republicans in the state legislature were among those behind the rejected appeal. The Wisconsin state Elections Commission currently consists of just one Democrat among four total members, but not even that panel has apparently fought against Conley’s ruling.

Republicans have tried to roll back voting rights across the country. In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign sued to try and block the usage of drop boxes for absentee ballots in the state.

A recent Pennsylvania state Supreme Court ruling upheld the usage of those boxes. That same ruling also extended the deadline for receiving returned mail-in ballots in that state to the third day after Election Day, and Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court — which currently has just eight members in the aftermath of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — to put the ruling on hold.

On the national level, President Trump has frequently alleged that “universal mail-in” voting is full of fraud, but the evidence for his claims is not there. However, he hasn’t stopped with the nonsense rhetoric. He has also refused to commit to accepting the election results and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power if he loses. At the Tuesday night presidential debate, after moderator Chris Wallace asked if he would urge his supporters to remain calm in the event of delayed election results, Trump said that he is “urging [his] supporters to go in to the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen,” which sounds like a call for physical intimidation of voters from the other side.