In a 5-3 decision on Monday, the US Supreme Court rejected requests to allow Wisconsin to maintain modifications to its election rules to extend the deadline for counting mail-in ballots received after Election Day.
There was no one opinion agreed upon by the five justices ruling against the election modifications. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh all filed separate opinions that agreed to deny relief without agreeing on the reasoning. Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor all joined in dissenting.
The five justices forming a plurality opinion to deny Wisconsin voting modifications focused on separation of powers issues, among other things, as reasons to reject the modification requests. They emphasized that the legislature should decide how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic rather than the courts. In Kagan’s dissent, she countered this point by arguing that the Wisconsin legislature has not convened since April and either way, politicians deserve less deference with election-related issues because their goals often conflict with the interests of voters.
The US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin extended the absentee ballot deadline for the April 7 primary elections in Wisconsin. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit then upheld a six-day deadline extension for Wisconsin absentee ballots in September. The extension was challenged as unconstitutional, and the Seventh Circuit agreed, then blocking the extension about 10 days after upholding it.
Many other states have been engaged in legal battles over how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic during election season, including Alabama banning curbside voting, Arizona requiring mail-in ballots be received by a certain time on Election Day and Texas allowing poll workers not to wear masks.