The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that mail-in ballots in Wisconsin can only be counted if they are received by Election Day.
The court voted 5-3 along ideological lines, with all five Republican-appointed judges voting to reject a request from Wisconsin Democrats to extend the threshold for the state to count ballots for six days after Election Day if they were postmarked before Nov. 3.
Earlier this month, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to suspend a ruling by a District Court judge in Wisconsin who issued an order pushing the ballot-counting date back to Nov. 9.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a solo concurring opinion calling the lower court’s action “improper” and denying the request by Democrats to lift the stay put in place by the appeals court.
“In this case, as in several this Court has recently addressed, a District Court intervened in the thick of this election season to enjoin enforcement of a state’s laws,” he wrote.
The Supreme Court previously allowed Pennsylvania to extend the counting of mail-in ballots to Nov. 6 but Roberts wrote that case “implicated the authority of state courts to apply their own constitutions to election regulations,” while the Supreme Court lifting the stay would represent “federal intrusion.”
“Different bodies of law and different precedents govern these two situations and require, in these particular circumstances, that we allow the modification of election rules in Pennsylvania but not Wisconsin,” he wrote.
Justice Elena Kagan, joined by fellow liberal Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, wrote a dissent stating the ruling failed to consider the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on voters.
“Because the court refuses to reinstate the district court’s injunction, Wisconsin will throw out thousands of timely requested and timely cast mail ballots. And today’s decision does not stand alone,” wrote Kagan. “As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, the court has failed to adequately protect the nation’s voters.”
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