In a victory for Democrats, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that mail-in ballots can be received by Nov. 9, six days after Election Day, provided they are postmarked by Nov. 3.
“…the court concludes that plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success in demonstrating the risk of disenfranchisement of thousands of Wisconsin voters due to the election day receipt deadline outweighs any state interest during this pandemic. Accordingly, the court will grant this request, extending the receipt deadline for absentee ballots until November 9, 2020, but requiring that the ballots be mailed and postmarked on or before election day, November 3, 2020.” Judge William Conley wrote.
The ruling comes after Democrats won similar victories in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where postmark deadlines have also been extended. Taken together, if the rulings stand, they ensure that tens of thousands of ballots that would’ve been rejected due to lateness will end up getting counted.
It’s one of several changes that are included in the ruling.
The ruling also gives voters one more week to register to vote, pushing the deadline from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21 and allows voters to receive replacement ballots from Oct. 22 to Oct. 29 for those who requested ballots but did not receive them.
The ruling also allows election officials to be residents of other counties within Wisconsin.
The judge stayed the ruling for one week to give Republicans time to appeal. “NO voter can depend on any extension of deadlines for electronic and mail-in registration and for receipt of absentee ballots unless finally upheld on appeal. In the meantime, lest they effectively lose their right to do so by the vagaries of COVID-19, mail processing or other, unforeseen developments leading up to the November election, the court joins the WEC in urging especially new Wisconsin voters to register by mail on or before October 14, 2020, and all voters to do so by absentee ballot as soon as possible,” Conley cautioned.
Democrats have said they want postmark deadlines extended to ensure more voters’ ballots are counted. But the later deadlines also inject more uncertainty into an already fragile post-election process. They could complicate efforts by news organizations to promptly project winners – because the pool of possible eligible votes will continue growing for several days after the polls close.
Farbod Faraji, counsel for Protect Democracy, said, "the court's decision is a significant step toward ensuring that our democracy does not slide even further into peril.
"This decision will help ensure that Wisconsinites can exercise their sacred right to cast a ballot freely and safely," Faraji added.