WASHINGTON — Siding with Wisconsin’s Republican-led legislature, the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court refused on Monday to allow an extension ordered by a federal judge in the deadline for returning mail-in ballots in the state, dealing a setback to Democrats.
The court, with three liberal justices dissenting, left in place a lower court’s Oct. 8 decision that blocked U.S. District Judge William Conley’s ruling that would have let officials count ballots that were postmarked by the time polls close on Election Day on Nov. 3 but arrived up to six days later.
The high court’s action keeps in place a state policy that mail-in ballots be in the hands of election officials by the close of polls.
Wisconsin is crucial to Republican President Donald Trump’s re-election chances against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Liberal Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissenting opinion that the court’s decision “will disenfranchise large numbers of responsible voters in the midst of hazardous pandemic conditions.”
The coronavirus pandemic is fueling an increase in voting by mail as Americans seek to avoid crowds at polling places, even as Trump makes repeated claims without evidence that such voting – long practiced in American elections – is rife with fraud. Elections experts have called such voter fraud exceedingly rare.
Trump’s narrow victory in Wisconsin in 2016 helped him secure the presidency. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday showed Biden leading Trump by 53% to 44% in the state. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)