Photo by Saiyna Bashir, The Capital Times

As the state and national Republican parties moved to appeal a federal judge’s ruling pushing back the deadline for absentee ballots to be received and counted, the state Elections Commission deadlocked in a late-night meeting on whether to do the same.

Instead, the commissioners plan to ask Judge William Conley to clarify how his order would affect statutorily mandated reporting on election night.

Republican Chair Dean Knudson called for the appeal, saying he anticipated the extension to submit an absentee ballot from April 7 to April 13 would cause the election to devolve into “a real mess” unless Conley’s decision is changed.

“The way he envisions this, the election really goes on and does not end until the 13th,” the former GOP lawmaker said. “That would have been fine if he would have told us to go ahead and stop election night reporting.”

The commission split 3-3 on pursuing an appeal, but members agreed they needed guidance on how to handle counting ballots.

Under state law, county clerks must post unofficial Election Night returns within two hours after receiving them from municipal clerks. But neither Dems nor Republicans on the panel felt comfortable publishing returns before the deadline to cast a ballot.

Dem Mark Thomsen indicated the commission intended to send a letter asking Conley to affirm his ruling could be interpreted to allow the counting of ballots to be done ahead of the new April 13 deadline but to not have “running counts.”

Thomsen said he anticipated the court would provide guidance by tomorrow if the panel delivered the letter in the morning.

Within hours of yesterday’s ruling, both the state and national Republican parties and GOP lawmakers had filed notice of their intention to appeal the decision pushing back the deadline for absentee ballots to April 13.

State GOP Chair Andrew Hitt argued Conley’s decision to push back the deadline for absentee ballots to be received, without adding a date by which they must be postmarked, had the effect of pushing back the entire election.

“Such a substantial decision normally left to our elected officials requires the review of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals,” Hitt said.

The state and national Republican parties were allowed to intervene in the suit, while GOP lawmakers weren’t.

In their notice, the Republican legislators indicated plans to file an emergency appeal seeking to stay Conley’s order while it is reviewed. They also want his decision rejecting their motion to intervene reversed.

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