Monday, a federal judge extended the deadline for counting absentee ballots cast in Wisconsin by almost a week after Election Day, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
U.S. District Judge William Conley’s order means that Wisconsin voters may not know the results of the 2020 presidential election on Election Day. Instead, absentee ballots will be counted until Nov. 9, the Monday after Election Day.
Associated Students of Madison Chair Matthew Mitnick said this order will help make sure more people’s votes are counted.
“This will definitely make things run more smoothly, but will most importantly allow more people to have, not only access to voting, but will allow them to make sure their vote is cast,” Mitnick said.
But unlike in the April primary election, Conley will allow November election results to be publicized as they come in on Election Day and throughout the remainder of the week, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
In April, the results were not reported until the week after the election.
UW Political Science professor Katherine Cramer said in an email to The Badger Herald that many people will be nervous to hear the election results come November.
“Many people will be very anxious about the outcome of the November election,” Cramer said in an email statement. “In this highly polarized context with anxiety over the economy, race and the pandemic so high for many people, many leaders are thinking about how to make this election go as smoothly as possible.”
Conley’s order states ballots must be mailed and postmarked on or before Election Day in order to be counted. It is up to municipalities to determine if a ballot was timely.
Due to safety concerns around voting in-person with COVID-19 still looming, Wisconsin election officials are expecting another surge in absentee ballots for the November election, similar to April.
“This will alleviate a lot of stress people have and hopefully it’ll lessen lines on Election Day, allowing people to not congregate in large groups to vote,” Mitnick said.
Clerks in some jurisdictions are expecting 60% to 70% of voters to cast their ballots absentee in November, with 1,080,071 of Wisconsin’s 3.5 million registered voters already having requested their ballots, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Conley’s decision is “on hold for a week to allow for expected appeals” from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago and then potentially from the U.S. Supreme Court.
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“Hopefully it stands,” Mitnick said. “This [order] will definitely make people more comfortable [with mail-in voting] because there is that buffer of a week. In Wisconsin, every single vote truly does matter.”
Wisconsin is a known battleground state that many will be watching closely in the 2020 presidential election.
In 2016, Republican President Donald Trump won Wisconsin by just under 23,000 votes.
“I do think that enabling ballots to be counted that were posted on or before Election Day will allow the voices of more people to be heard through their votes,” Cramer said.