Michigan Court Overturns Two-Week Absentee-Ballot Extension

POLITICS & POLICY
A poll worker labels a wrapped pallet of absentee ballots for shipment at the Wake County Board of Elections on the first day that the state started mailing them out in Raleigh, N.C., September 4, 2020. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

A Michigan court ruled Friday that absentee ballots must be received by Election Day in order to be counted, overturning a lower court’s two-week extension that was hailed by Democrats in the key swing state.

The state’s appeals court said that absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, ruling against a lower court’s decision to allow votes to be counted up to 14 days after Election Day as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 2. Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature brought the appeal after the ballot deadline was extended.

“To be sure, the pandemic has caused considerable change in our lives, but election officials have taken considerable steps to alleviate the potential effects by making no-reason absent voting easier for the 2020 election,” the three appellate judges wrote in a unanimous decision.

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Democrats had pushed to ease restrictions on absentee voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, while Republicans argued that the recent Post Office delays combined with the expected increase in mail-in ballots this year are not reason enough to extend voting deadlines.

“Although those factors may complicate plaintiffs’ voting process, they do not automatically amount to a loss of the right to vote absentee,” the judges stated.

The court’s decision also reinstated some restrictions on third-party ballot collection, limiting who voters can designate to deliver their ballot to election officials.

The ruling is similar to decisions by higher courts in Indiana and Wisconsin overturning ballot extensions.

President Trump won Michigan narrowly in 2016 by less than 11,000 votes.

Republicans in the state celebrated the court’s decision on Friday, calling it “a great day for the rule of law.”

“It’s important that the rules aren’t changed during an election to advantage one party over another,” said Laura Cox, chairman of the Michigan Republican party.

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