A federal appeals court blocked a Democrat proposal to extend the deadline for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin on Thursday.
Absentee ballots now must be delivered to election clerks by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 in order to remain valid, if the ruling stands. Democrats are likely to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, which could see an expanded conservative majority by the time of the election, pending the confirmation of federal judge Amy Coney Barrett. Conservatives currently hold an edge on the court with a 5-3 majority following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s September death.
Democrats pushed for an extended absentee deadline after the state witnessed long lines during its April presidential primary combined with fewer polling places that were short-staffed. The state is already seeing a surge in mail-in ballots weeks ahead of the November contest.
A three-judge panel on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned lower-court rulings in a split 2-1 decision that had previously upheld the extended deadline letting ballots be counted six days after Nov. 3.
“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,” the judges wrote. “The district court did not find that any person who wants to avoid voting in person on Election Day would be unable to cast a ballot in Wisconsin by planning ahead and taking advantage of the opportunities allowed by state law.”
Republicans celebrated the court victory in state Trump flipped in 2016 by a razor-thin margin.
“Democrats continue to try and move the goalposts by overhauling election integrity safeguards, and they continue to fail,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “This is a huge victory for Wisconsin voters who reasonably expect timely and secure election results. We have an Election Day for a reason, and we are glad that once again, the court agrees.”
Trump carried the blue wall battleground by less than a full percent in 2016, taking its 10 electoral votes over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Former Vice President Joe Biden currently leads Trump by more than 5 percent, according to RealClearPolitics’ latest aggregate of polls. Clinton, however, led by a wider margin at this point in the race four years ago.