A federal appeals court on Tuesday reversed a lower court’s extension of the Indiana mail-in ballot deadline. The original deadline extension allowed for ballot submission up to 10 days after the election. However, the appeals court’s reversal mandates that all mail-in ballots arrive at Indiana elections offices by election day.
The court found that the deadline extension was unneeded to maintain voting rights. In the court’s opinion, Judge Easterbrook cited early in-person and mail-in voting as sufficient for protecting voting rights and that the deadline extension would be unnecessary:
People who worry that mail will be delayed during the pandemic can protect themselves by using early in-person voting or posting their ballots early. As the Supreme Court observed in Republican National Committee v. Democratic National Committee, those who act at the last minute assume risks even without a pandemic. A state satisfies all constitutional requirements by devising a set of rules under which everyone who takes reasonable steps to cast an effective ballot can do so. During a pandemic a reasonable person entitled to vote by mail transmits the ballot earlier than normal or uses another approved method. Indiana allows voting from overseas, or by a member of the uniformed services, by fax or email. It also allows voting in person during the four weeks before Election Day. The district court did not find that anyone entitled to vote in Indiana would be unable to cast an effective ballot by acting ahead of the deadline or, if necessary, voting in person on November 3.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill praised the appeals court’s decision:
Our system provides adequate opportunity for all Hoosiers to cast a ballot by Election Day, and the absentee ballot-receipt deadline as written by the Indiana General Assembly helps most races to be called on Election Day, and not days or weeks after. The U.S. Supreme Court has said repeatedly that courts should not issue election-related injunctions at the eleventh hour, and we are pleased that the court of appeals has implemented that directive.
This decision follows after recent decisions over Indiana voting laws. The same court held in early October that Indiana need not extend mail-in voting to every citizen. Additionally, courts around the country have recently determined voting procedures in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Rhode Island and North Carolina, among others.