MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Minnesota’s absentee ballots that come in after Election Day should be separated from the rest of the ballots, in case a future order makes those votes invalid.
Thursday's ruling doesn’t block Minnesota’s seven-day extension for counting absentee ballots — but it does order a lower court to issue a ruling that would keep the late-arriving ballots separate.
Republicans had argued that the extension — which had been approved in both state and federal courts due to the COVID-19 pandemic — violated federal law that establishes Nov. 3 as the date of the 2020 election.
Democrats said eliminating the extension would create voter confusion.
The ruling states:
The democratically-enacted election rules in Minnesota provide that mail-in votes must be received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted (or 3:00 p.m. if delivered in person).
It also states:
The Secretary’s instructions to count mail-in ballots received up to seven days after Election Day stand in direct contradiction to Minnesota election law governing presidential elections, and the Electors have strongly shown likely success on the merits since the Secretary’s actions are likely to be declared invalid under the Electors Clause of Article II of the United States Constitution.
One judge on the three-judge panel dissented in the ruling.
Four days before Election Day, they are now required to figure out new procedures for sorting ballots that will comply with the court’s order “to identify, segregate, and otherwise maintain and preserve all absentee ballots received after” election day.
As of last week Friday, more than 1.1 million ballots have been accepted by election offices across Minnesota.