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

A federal appeals court ordered Minnesota election officials to set aside any mail-in ballots that arrive after 8 p.m. Nov. 3, a move that threatens a seven-day extension the state had imposed to make sure all votes were counted amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit said the state’s decision earlier this year to apply the grace period amid coronavirus precautions could result in legal challenges after the election over the validity of ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 but 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,” according to the ruling. They added that the short time frame — ruling just five days before the election — was “not lost on us.” The court said all ballots received after 8 p.m. local time be set aside, but it did not rule out that they could be counted later or that they could 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 majority wrote in its decision. “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 brought by Minnesota’s Republican presidential electors, who argued the extension violated federal law that has established Nov. 3 as the date of this year’s general election. It mirrored several efforts by the GOP around the nation to hamper mail-in voting provisions in an unprecedented election season as many Americans try to avoid crowds amid the pandemic. The decision prompted Democrats in the state to urge voters to return ballots in person as soon as possible. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon urged all voters to deliver their ballots by hand if they still have them, calling the decision a “tremendous and unnecessary disruption.” Considering today’s decision by the Court of Appeals, this seems like a good time to remind everyone about the City’s 13 Ballot Drop-Off sites, all of which are open **every day** through 3 p.m. on Election Day.> BRING US YOUR MAIL BALLOTS!!! <--- pic.twitter.com>

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