The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a federal court’s six-day deadline extension for Wisconsin absentee ballots Tuesday. The Seventh Circuit’s decision followed after Wisconsin Secretary of Elections Commission Marge Bostelmann, the Wisconsin State Legislature, Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Wisconsin appealed the lower court’s extension.
The appeals court upheld the extension because it found that those appealing the federal court’s extension lacked legal interest in the outcome of the case. The court remarked:
In particular, the [lower court] extended the deadline for online and mail-in registration from October 14 to October 21, 2020; extended the deadline for delivery of absentee ballots by mail from October 22 by allowing for online delivery and access by October 29; and extended the deadline for the receipt of mailed ballots from November 3 (Election Day) to November 9, provided that the ballots are postmarked on or before November 3. Two other provisions of the injunction need not be described. The three intervening defendants have appealed and asked us to issue a stay; the executive-branch defendants have not appealed. With the election only a few weeks away, the decision with respect to a stay will eﬀectively decide the appeals on the merits. We need not discuss the parties’ arguments about the constitutional rules for voting or the criteria for stays laid out in Nken v. Holder, because none of the three appellants has a legal interest in the outcome of this litigation. (citations omitted).
The US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin originally extended the Wisconsin absentee ballot deadline ahead of the primary April 7 Wisconsin primary election. The court found that the strict election day deadline created a “burden placed on absentee voters [that] is severe.”
Wisconsin is not the only state to change its rules on absentee ballots. The US Supreme Court declined to hear a case that appealed a Rhode Island federal court’s suspension of a rule that required Rhode Island voters to sign absentee ballots in front of two witnesses. Likewise, in September, a Michigan state Court of Claims ruled that absentee ballots for this upcoming November election should be counted if postmarked by November 2 and received within 14 days.
The Seventh Circuit has stated that it plans to dismiss the deadline extension case within a week if the appellants do not supply a valid reason for it not be dismissed.