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Supreme Court rejects Democrat request to extend Wisconsin vote count beyond Election Day

In 5-3 ruling, conservative majority says state legislatures and not courts should change election rules.

Published: October 26, 2020 8:04pm

Updated: October 26, 2020 8:18pm

The Supreme Court on Monday night rejected Democrats' request to extend the deadline for counting mail-in ballots in Wisconsin beyond Election Day because of coronavirus concerns.

In a 5-3 ruling, the court's conservative bloc concluded that state legislatures and not the federal courts should set election laws, thus refusing to overturn a federal appeals court. That appeals court had issued a stay of a district's judge's order that would have allowed vote counting to extend beyond Election Day. 

The high court's three liberals dissented.

"No one doubts that conducting a national election amid a pandemic poses serious challenges. But none of that means individual judges may improvise with their own election rules in place of those the people’s representatives have adopted," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a concurring opinion, just days after siding with the liberals in a different opinion involving Pennsylvania. "In this case, as in several this Court has recently addressed, a District Court intervened in the thick of election season to enjoin enforcement of a State’s laws. Because I believe this intervention was improper, I agree with the decision of the Seventh Circuit to stay the injunction pending appeal.

In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan criticized the majority ruling as a health risk. "As the COVID pandemic rages, the Court has failed to adequately protect the Nation’s voters," she wrote.

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