Federal appeals court rules Minnesota mail-in ballots must be received by Election Day
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Federal appeals court rules Minnesota mail-in ballots must be received by Election Day

In a 2-1 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled Thursday that Minnesota mail-in ballots must be received by election officials no later than Election Day.

The case challenged Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon’s instructions to count mail-in ballots up to seven days after Election Day, as a violation of Minnesota election law. The state relied on conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic to justify the decree, but the appeals court found that “however well-intentioned and appropriate from a policy perspective in the context of a pandemic during a presidential election, it is not the province of a state executive official to re-write the state’s election code.”

The court’s decision reverses the denial of the motion for preliminary injunction requiring the secretary to “identify, segregate, and otherwise maintain and reserve all absentee ballots received after the deadlines set forth … to be removed from the vote total in the event a final order if entered by a court of competent jurisdiction determining such votes to be invalid or unlawfully counted.”

The decision does not explicitly determine whether or not the post-Election Day absentee ballots will be counted, but at the very least, opens up the possibility for a hard-fought legal battle to challenge the validity of mail-in absentee ballots in the context of a global pandemic and a contentious postal delivery system.