A federal judge Monday granted a series of changes Dems sought to the November election, including pushing back by six days the deadline for absentee ballots to be returned so long as they’re postmarked by Election Day.

Typically, absentee ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. But Judge William Conley noted in his ruling the onslaught of absentee ballots expected this fall due to concerns about voting in person amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He said “any objective view of the record before this court” suggests there will be an unprecedented number of absentee ballots cast, overwhelming the state Elections Commission “and local officials despite their best efforts to prepare.”

As of Monday morning, Wisconsin voters had requested nearly 1.1 million absentee ballots, compared to the more than 140,000 returned via mail for the November 2016 election. Conley also noted the more than 79,000 absentee ballots in Wisconsin’s April election that would’ve been disqualified if he hadn’t issued a similar order extending the deadline.

That April order included a prohibition on clerks reporting the results prior to the delayed deadline for absentee ballots to be returned. He included no such prohibition in Monday’s order.

Conley stayed his order for seven days to give the state and national Republican parties along with GOP lawmakers an opportunity to seek an emergency appeal.

State GOP Chair Andrew Hitt said, “We’re reviewing the order and working with the other parties in the case to determine our next steps.”

Representatives with the offices of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, either didn’t return calls or were still reviewing the ruling.

The order also:

*extends by one week to Oct. 21 the deadline to register to vote online or by mail.

*allows voters who request absentee ballots but don’t receive them in the mail to get a replacement ballot electronically between Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.

*bans enforcing a requirement that those serving as election officials Nov. 3 must be a resident of the county in which the municipality where they’re working is located.

Today’s ruling covered several lawsuits seeking changes to the November election that were combined into one suit. Angela Lang, executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, one of the groups involved, praised the decision as a “win for democracy” that will allow thousands to vote safely this fall.

“We can’t let a pandemic, or any other threat, diminish the ability of voters to participate in the most fundamental aspect of our democracy, casting a ballot,” Lang said.


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