Deadline extension for Michigan absentee ballots overturned by appeals court

As political parties remain at odds over new election provisions meant to facilitate easier voting during the ongoing pandemic, Democrats in Michigan received a legal blow to their case this week.

A state appeals court ruling this week blocked an extension that would have given voters an extra two weeks after Election Day in which absentee ballots could be counted, as reported by the Associated Press.

“Unrefuted evidence”

The order was announced on Friday and the three-judge panel arrived at a unanimous decision.

In reaching their conclusion, the judges overturned a lower court ruling that had been seen as a win for state Democrats.

According to Michigan law, absentee ballots must be submitted by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be considered valid. Judge Cynthia Stephens, however, ruled that any ballot postmarked by Nov. 2 — the day before Election Day — could be counted provided that it arrives within two weeks of Nov. 3.

Citing “unrefuted evidence” that mail delivery had been negatively impacted by the public health crisis, Stephens pointed to the recent August primary election and more than 6,000 ballots that arrived too late to be counted as evidence of the need for an extension.

On appeal, however, the judge’s argument was not enough to convince the panel.

“Not suspended or transformed”

“Although those factors may complicate plaintiffs’ voting process, they do not automatically amount to a loss of the right to vote absentee,” the higher court’s ruling states.

In addition, the appeals court reversed Stephens’ ruling that would allow non-relatives to collect and submit ballots on behalf of Michigan voters.

“The constitution is not suspended or transformed even in times of a pandemic, and judges do not somehow become authorized in a pandemic to rewrite statutes or to displace the decisions made by the policymaking branches of government,” wrote Judge Mark Boonstra in a concurring opinion.

The Michigan Democratic Party released a statement expressing its disappointment in the latest ruling: “Voters should not be punished for delays in the U.S. Postal Service or for unexpected emergencies that could make it a challenge for them to get to the polls on Election Day.”

Those Republicans concerned about the security of the nation’s election results, however, are sure to agree with GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel’s conclusion that the ruling represented “[g]reat news for election integrity!”

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