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Supreme Court will not extend Wisconsin deadline for sending ballots

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday refused to reactivate a trial court ruling that would have extended Wisconsin’s deadline for receiving postal votes to six days after the election.

The vote was 5-3, with the court’s more conservative judges in the majority. As usual, the succinct, unsigned court order gives no reason. But several judges filed concurring and dissenting opinions that spanned 35 pages and revealed a clear division in their understanding of the role of the courts in protecting the right to vote during a pandemic.

The move was seen as a victory for Republicans in critical critical condition, which polls showed Mr Trump after winning by around 23,000 votes in 2016.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party immediately announced a voter education project to alert voters that mail-in ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on election day, Nov. 3. party president, said on twitter. The US Postal Service has recommended voters send in their ballots by October 27 to make sure they are counted.

The move came as President Trump continued to attack postal voting, which Democrats are using much more this year. In a tweet Monday evening, Mr. Trump falsely stated that there were “big problems and discrepancies with the ballots all over the United States.” Must have final total by November 3. “(Twitter quickly put a warning label on the tweet.)

The decision was also the latest in a wave of election year rulings by the court that have mostly upheld voting restrictions, and the Trump campaign and his Republican allies are seeking similar restrictions on voting deadlines in d ‘other states. Cases from North Carolina and Pennsylvania are pending in court, with the latter being a second attempt after a 4-4 standoff last week. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed and sworn in to the Supreme Court on Monday night, could vote decisively in the case.

In Monday’s opinions, the divisions over voting rights that had been touched upon in some of the previous decisions became clearer.

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In a concurring opinion, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, joined by Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, wrote that federal trial judges should not change state voting rules when an election is imminent. “Elections must end at some point, a single deadline provides clear notice, and the requirement for ballots before election day puts all voters on the same footing,” Judge Gorsuch wrote.

“No one doubts that holding national elections in the midst of a pandemic poses serious challenges,” he wrote. “But none of this means that individual judges can improvise with their own electoral rules instead of those the people’s representatives have adopted.”

In a separate agreement, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that “the Constitution places the responsibility primarily on politically responsible state legislatures, and not on unelected federal judges, for ensuring the health and safety of the people during the Covid pandemic. -19 ”.

In an earlier dispute over the Wisconsin primary elections in April, the court required that ballots be mailed and postmarked before election day. But that did not disrupt a similar six-day extension for the receipt of ballots, which had not been contested in the case then before it.

Dissenting Monday, Judge Elena Kagan, accompanied by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, said the state’s experience in April was revealing.

“This extension of the Wisconsin ballot receipt deadline has ensured that Covid-related delays in the delivery and processing of postal ballots would not deprive citizens of their voting rights fearing to vote in person “Wrote Justice Kagan. “As a result of the court ruling, state officials counted 80,000 ballots – about 5 percent of the total votes – which were postmarked on election day, but were reportedly rejected to arrive. a few days later.

Chief Justice John G.

“While the Pennsylvania claims involved the power of state courts to apply their own constitutions to electoral regulations, this case involves federal intrusion into state law processes,” the chief justice wrote. “Different bodies of law and different precedents govern these two situations and require, in these particular circumstances, that we allow changes to the electoral rules in Pennsylvania but not in Wisconsin.”

A divided panel of three judges from the Chicago Federal Court of Appeals had blocked the trial court’s decision in the Wisconsin case, saying it was too close to the election and amounted to judicial interference in “a task elected branches of government ”.

Monday’s Supreme Court order let the appeals court ruling stand, restoring a deadline for accepting postal votes to 8 p.m. on November 3, when polling stations close.

The majority of the Court of Appeal, in an unsigned opinion joined by Justices Frank H. Easterbrook and Amy J. St. Eve, said the trial judge’s extension was inappropriate.

“Voters have had several months since March to register or obtain postal ballots; reading the Constitution to extend the deadlines as the elections approach is difficult to justify when voters have had a long time to vote while preserving social distancing, ”the judges wrote. “The district court did not find that a person wishing to avoid voting in person on election day would not be able to vote in Wisconsin by planning ahead and taking advantage of opportunities permitted by law to vote. the state.

In dissent, Judge Ilana D. Rovner replied that “no citizen should have to choose between their health and their right to vote”.

“The inevitable result of today’s court ruling will be that several thousand Wisconsin citizens will lose their right to vote despite all they can reasonably do to exercise it,” Justice Rovner wrote. “It’s a parody.”

In his Monday deal, Judge Kavanaugh criticized what he called Judge Kagan’s “rhetoric on ‘denial of the right to vote’.”

She replied that she meant to say the word literally, not rhetorically.

“During Covid, the deadline for receiving state ballots and the court’s decision to confirm it deprives citizens of their voting rights by depriving them of their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote,” he said. -she writes. “Because the court refuses to reinstate the district court injunction, Wisconsin will reject thousands of mail-order ballots requested and filed in a timely manner.”

Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting from Philadelphia and Stephanie Saul from New York.

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