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Supreme Court Sides With GOP, Blocks Wisconsin Voting Extension

April 6, 2020, 11:17 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a deadline for mailing absentee ballots in Tuesday’s presidential primary in Wisconsin, backing Republicans in the first coronavirus-related case to reach the justices.

Partially blocking a trial judge’s ruling, the justices required that all absentee ballots be postmarked by Tuesday in an election that also includes a hotly disputed battle over a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

Democrats say the postmark requirement will disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters who won’t even receive their ballots until at least Tuesday because of delays caused by the virus. As of Sunday, more than 12,000 ballot requests hadn’t been processed, a group led by the Democratic National Committee told the high court.

“If voters are not confident their absentee ballots will be counted, this will drive more people to vote in-person on election day, thereby increasing the risks of community spread through polling places in cities and towns throughout Wisconsin,” the DNC argued in a filing joined by voting-rights advocates and unions.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ordered that absentee ballots be counted if they are received by April 13, no matter when they were mailed. The Republican National Committee, the Wisconsin Republican Party and the GOP-controlled state legislature asked the Supreme Court to partially block that order, saying votes shouldn’t count if they are submitted after election day.

“Requiring a state to permit unlimited absentee voting for almost a week after election day presents significant dangers to election integrity, voter confidence and the orderly administration of an election that already has strained state resources due to the difficult circumstances associated with Covid-19,” the Republicans argued.

The Republicans didn’t challenge the April 13 deadline for ballots mailed on or before election day.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court race pits incumbent Daniel Kelly, a conservative, against liberal challenger Jill Karofsky. A low voter turnout could help Kelly fend off the challenge.

Wisconsin Republicans have rejected calls by Democratic Governor Tony Evers to move the election to May and stop in-person voting. Evers issued a stay-at-home order March 24.

The case is Republican National Committee v. Democratic National Committee, 19A1016.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net

Laurie Asséo, Anna Edgerton

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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