Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Michigan appeals court blocks 2-week absentee ballot extension

A sign directing voters to the absentee ballot drop-box at one of the Satellite Voting Center inside Northwest Activity Center in Michigan.
A sign directing voters to the absentee ballot drop-box at one of the Satellite Voting Center inside Northwest Activity Center in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Absentee ballots in Michigan must be in by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted, a Court of Appeals ruled Friday, reversing a lower court's decision that extended the deadline by 14 days, AP reports.

Why it matters: The decision comes less than three weeks before the election, and some fear that recent disruptions to the U.S. Postal Service may delay the delivery of absentee ballots.

  • More than 6,400 ballots arrived too late to be counted in the state's August primary, per AP.
  • Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens last month ordered that ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 could be counted if they arrived within 14 days of the Nov. 3 election. She specifically said there was "unrefuted evidence" of mail delivery problems due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The state's Republican-controlled legislature appealed that decision.

What they're saying: In its 3-0 opinion, the court of appeals said the decision to change the law, which states that absentee ballots must be delivered by election night, "is the responsibility of our elected policy makers, not the judiciary," per The Detroit News.

  • "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 judges added, pointing to the installation of additional absentee drop-off boxes.

Worth noting: Similar absentee ballot extensions have been reversed by higher courts in Wisconsin and Indiana, per AP.

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