‘No Pandemic Exception’: Federal Court Says Minnesota Must Separate Out Later Ballots

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A federal appeals court docket ordered Minnesota election officers to set aside any mail-in ballots that arrive after eight p.m. Nov. 3, a transfer that threatens a seven-day extension the state had imposed to ensure all votes have been counted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a 2-1 resolution, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the eighth Circuit mentioned the state’s resolution earlier this 12 months to use the grace interval amid coronavirus precautions could result in legal challenges after the election over the validity of ballots postmarked by Nov. Three however delivered later. The ruling doesn’t completely block late ballots from being counted, and any ballots that arrive in time are unaffected.

“There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution,” based on the ruling.

They added that the quick timeframe — ruling simply 5 days earlier than the election — was “not lost on us.” The court docket mentioned all ballots acquired after eight p.m. native time be put aside, nevertheless it didn’t rule out that they could possibly be counted later or that they could possibly be “removed from vote totals in the event a final order is entered.”

“We acknowledge and understand the concerns over voter confusion, election administration issues, and public confidence in the election,” the bulk wrote in its resolution. “Better to put those voters on notice now while they still have at least some time to adjust their plans and cast their votes in an unquestionably lawful way.”

The case was introduced by Minnesota’s Republican presidential electors, who argued the extension violated federal regulation that has established Nov. Three because the date of this 12 months’s basic election. It mirrored a number of efforts by the GOP across the nation to hamper mail-in voting provisions in an unprecedented election season as many Americans attempt to keep away from crowds amid the pandemic.

The resolution prompted Democrats within the state to induce voters to return ballots in particular person as quickly as attainable. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon urged all voters to ship their ballots by hand in the event that they nonetheless have them, calling the choice a “tremendous and unnecessary disruption.”

“This last-minute change could disenfranchise Minnesotans who were relying on settled rules for the 2020 election,” Simon advised the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis. “It is deeply troubling that the people who brought the lawsuit, a conservative legislator and presidential elector, would seek to sabotage the system for political gain.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) additionally criticized the ruling.

“Because of LAST MINUTE ruling, Minnesota DO NOT put ballots in mail any more,” she wrote on Twitter. “In the middle of a pandemic, the Republican Party is doing everything to make it hard for you to vote.”

The Minnesota GOP chairwoman, Jennifer Carnahan, known as the choice a “big win for election protection and freedom,” saying the extra counting time was “unnecessary and just a move by the left to play around with this election.”

Voters in Minnesota are nonetheless capable of drop off their absentee ballots in particular person, vote early or vote in particular person on Election Day, The Associated Press mentioned.

The New York Times, citing figures from the U.S. Elections Project, mentioned about 578,000 absentee ballots that had been requested haven’t but been returned within the state. Many of these votes could possibly be within the mail.

Like many states, Minnesota permits all voters to vote by mail in the event that they request a poll, together with these nervous about contracting COVID-19, but additionally anybody which may be abroad or within the army. The state has issued bleak warnings that it’s now too late to return such ballots by mail amid the newest court docket ruling.

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