MADISON — A federal judge has extended the deadline to receive absentee ballots in Wisconsin for the November election. If the ruling is not appealed, we will not know who officially won Wisconsin for a week after the election.
A federal judge in Madison came down with a ruling Monday afternoon that allows absentee ballots to be counted as long as they are postmarked by election day and received by Nov. 9.
This replicates a ruling the courts put in place for the spring Supreme Court election after Democrats sued to make sure ballots in the mail by election day would be counted. Because of that, voters learned the results of the April 7 election on April 13 after the absentee voting deadline was extended.
This ruling also gives voters more time to register online and through the mail until Oct. 21.
Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg sent TMJ4 news an email in response.
“The ruling has been stayed for a week, which means it will likely be appealed and a higher court could alter some of the ruling,” Woodall Vogg said. “However, a later return deadline does mean that our election results would be extremely unofficial until the late arriving deadline past, and we had processed all eligible ballots.”
Seven percent of the total ballots cast in the statewide spring election did not arrive until after the election day.
President Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by less than one percentage point.
U.S. District Judge William Conley granted a large portion of their requests, issuing a preliminary injunction that was expected to be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He put the ruling on hold for seven days to give the other side a chance to seek an emergency appeal.
According to Mondayt's ruling: "Election workers’ and voters’ experiences during Wisconsin’s primary election in April, which took place at the outset of the COVID19 crisis, have convinced the court that some, limited relief from statutory deadlines for mail-in registration and absentee voting is again necessary to avoid an untenable impingement on Wisconsin citizens’ right to vote, including the near certainty of disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters relying on the state’s absentee ballot process."
The Republican National Committee, the Wisconsin GOP and Wisconsin’s Republican legislators argued that current absentee voting regulations should be left in place, saying people have plenty of time to obtain ballots and get them back to clerks by Election Day.
The Democratic National Committee, the state Democratic Party and groups including the League of Women Voters and Disability Rights Wisconsin filed a series of lawsuits to make absentee voting and registration easier so people won’t have to go to the polls and risk catching the coronavirus.
Former City of Milwaukee Elections Commissioner Neil Albrecht said the delay with counting ballots could put Wisconsin in a difficult spot if the election is as close as some polls show it.
“There is the potential for there to be some anxiety and even angst directed towards the state of Wisconsin if we do end up holding up the decision making around who this country’s next president is” says Albrecht.
Wisconsin Elections Commission member Mark Thomsen says “the Wisconsin Election Commission has no authority to implement any of these changes for a week… as a member of the commission we want this decided as soon as possible so we know what rules are going to apply on election day.”