Appeals court strikes down extension of election deadlines

By: - October 9, 2020 11:42 am
MINNEAPOLIS, MN: Signage at an early voting center on September 23, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN: Signage at an early voting center on September 23, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday to strike down a previous court ruling that extended deadlines and loosened rules for November’s presidential election. 

In a 2-1 decision, the 7th District Court of Appeals found that District Court Judge William Conley had moved to change election rules too close to the election. In September, Conley had extended the deadlines to register to vote and request absentee ballots online. Conley had also ruled that poll workers could serve outside of their home counties, among other changes. 

Democrats and outside groups had initially brought the lawsuit hoping to loosen rules around voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans intervened to stop the changes

“Voters have had many months since March to register or obtain absentee ballots; reading the Constitution to extend deadlines near the election is difficult to justify when the voters have had a long time to cast ballots while preserving social distancing,” Judges Frank Easterbrook and Amy St. Eve wrote in the majority opinion. 

Previously, the appeals court had declined to take the case, saying the Republican-led Wisconsin Legislature did not have standing to appeal Conley’s decision. Earlier in the week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled otherwise, prompting the federal court to take up the issue again, this time siding with Republicans. 

In her dissent, Judge Ilana Rovner said that no American should need to choose between “her health and her right to vote.” She added that Conley’s ruling provided reasonable changes to Wisconsin election law that would help voters gain access to the ballot during a pandemic and called the majority decision a “travesty.” 

“Good luck and G-d bless, Wisconsin. You are going to need it,” she wrote.

All three appellate judges were nominated by Republican presidents. 

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.