Supreme Court Blocks Wisconsin’s Absentee Voting Extension

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On Monday night, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that Wisconsin will not be allowed to accept absentee ballots that are postmarked after April 7, the state’s voting day, per CNBC. The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision overruled a district court judgment that would have allowed absentee votes postmarked after the Wisconsin primary date to be counted if they arrived by April 13.

The decision fell alongside ideological lines, with the court’s five Republican-appointed justices halting the delay under the argument that it “fundamentally alters the nature of the election,” according to the unsigned majority opinion attached to the ruling.

“Wisconsin has decided to proceed with the elections scheduled for Tuesday, April 7. The wisdom of that decision is not the question before the Court. The question before the Court is a narrow, technical question about the absentee ballot process.”

Votes postmarked on April 7 — or any day prior — will still be accepted as long as they arrive prior to April 13. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito voted to block the deadline extension.

The decision came only hours after Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ executive order to postpone in-person voting until June 9 was blocked by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The two decisions mean Wisconsin voters who cannot vote by absentee ballot will have to potentially risk their health and go to the polls during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As of publishing, 77 Wisconsonites have died from complications related to the virus, per Worldometer. Tuesday’s vote will determine who receives the state’s 84 pledged presidential delegates in the Democratic presidential primary, as well as who takes a seat in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Tony Evers speaks at a rally
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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion to the decision, referencing “tens of thousands” of voters who could be unable to vote without putting their health at risk.

“While I do not doubt the good faith of my colleagues, the Court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement. A voter cannot deliver for postmarking a ballot she has not received. Yet tens of thousands of voters who timely requested ballots are unlikely to receive them by April 7, the Court’s postmark deadline.”

Ginsberg was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan in the effort to uphold the extension.

Wisconsin is currently under a shelter-in-place order in response to health concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Twelve states — and Puerto Rico — have postponed elections, and the U.S. Supreme Court has delayed arguments scheduled for its March and April sessions due to risks posed by the virus.