Republicans in Wisconsin got a small victory in their efforts to make it more difficult to commit voter fraud when a Wisconsin judge overruled a lower court’s decision to allow absentee ballots to be counted for six days after Election Day. If the ruling stands, all ballots would need to be collected by 8:00 p.m. on election night.
The ruling will also allow the state to announce the winner on Election Day or shortly thereafter. The six-day absentee ballot extension could have prolonged the decision for a week or more.
Conley’s ruling also noted the polling issues in April primaries when long lines increased wait times for voting and thousands of ballots didn’t arrive at the local clerk’s office in time.
The 7th Circuit Court judges initially upheld Conley’s ruling on Sept. 29, rejecting the Republicans’ standing to intervene. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed that standing, the same three-judge panel delivered Thursday’s ruling.
The judges refused to supersede the authority of the state legislature in election matters.
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Justices Frank Easterbrook and Amy St. Eve voted to stay the order and Ilana Rovner opposed.
“The State Legislature offers two principal arguments in support of a stay: first, that a federal court should not change the rules so close to an election; second, that political rather than judicial officials are entitled to decide when a pandemic justifies changes to rules that are otherwise valid,” the majority wrote. “We agree with both of those arguments.”
In a curious dissent, Judge Rovner appeared to want a decision not based on the law, but on fear and emotion.
Rovner, in a blistering dissent, highlighted the coronavirus threat to citizens in Wisconsin, currently one of the nation’s worst hot spots. Conley came up with a “limited, reasonable set of modifications” to election rules to preserve “the precious right of each Wisconsin citizen to vote,” she wrote.
“Today, in the midst of a pandemic and significantly slowed mail delivery, this court leaves voters to their own devices,” she wrote. “Good luck and G-d bless, Wisconsin. You are going to need it.”
In fact, Conley’s decision was radical, not “limited” or “reasonable.” And it was judicial lawmaking at its most blatant.
There’s no evidence of “significantly slowed mail delivery” as postal workers continue to insist they can deliver every single ballot on time. The judge is substituting a Democratic Party political narrative for the facts.
Republican leaders in the state hailed the ruling.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, part of the Republican leadership that successfully pressed the appeal of Conley’s ruling, called the reversal “a huge win for preserving the integrity of our election process in Wisconsin.” He called an extended counting period “a preposterous setup” that would undermine confidence in the election.
This ruling will not keep liberal election law lawyers from trying to get any ballots found sitting at the post office counted after Election Day. But it might make it harder to rule them in.