Regulation

Judge extends Wisconsin's mail-in voting deadline

A federal judge ruled on Monday that Wisconsin must extend its deadlines for accepting mail-in ballots and for voters to register.

Judge William Conley of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that an injunction against the state's election laws is "necessary to avoid an untenable impingement on Wisconsin citizens' right to vote, including the near certainty of disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters relying on the state's absentee ballot process."

He ordered the state to accept ballots received on or before Nov. 9 as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day, extending the previous deadline for mail-in ballots that was set for Oct. 29.

Conley, who was appointed by former President Obama, also extended the deadline for online and mail-in registration from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21.

However, recognizing that his decision would likely be appealed, the judge stayed his order from going into effect for a week and urged voters to register before the Oct. 14 deadline.

Conley said in his decision that the coronavirus pandemic continues to pose a unique threat to Wisconsin's voting systems and that the state's difficulties in administering its primary election in April show that the deadline relief is urgently needed.

"While the exact trajectory of COVID-19 in Wisconsin is unknown, the unrebutted public health evidence in the record demonstrates that COVID-19 will continue to persist, and may worsen, through November," Conley wrote.

The decision comes in a case brought by four consolidated lawsuits against the Wisconsin legislature and the state election commission seeking relaxed voting restrictions in light of the public health crisis.

The Republican National Committee and the Wisconsin Republican Party intervened in the lawsuit to argue against extending the deadlines. An attorney representing the GOP in the case did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

Wisconsin is considered a hotly contested battleground state in the upcoming presidential election. A Reuters-Ipsos poll released Monday shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Trump by 5 points among likely voters in the state.

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