DETROIT (AP) – Postal ballot papers must arrive by election day to be counted, Michigan appeals court said Friday, blocking a 14-day extension ordered by a lower court and approved by key Democratic officials in a battlefield state .
All changes must lie with the legislature, not the judiciary, the Republican-appointed appeals court judges said in a 3-0 statement.
Postal voting extensions in Wisconsin and Indiana were also overturned by higher courts.
Michigan’s ability to deal with a flood of ballot papers is being closely watched in a state narrowly won by President Donald Trump in 201
Michigan law requires postal ballot papers to be submitted by 8:00 p.m. on election day to be valid. However, Judge of the Court of Claims, Cynthia Stephens, had ordered that all ballot papers stamped by November 2nd may be counted if they were received within two weeks of the November 3rd election.
Stephens said there was “undisputed evidence” of mail delivery problems due to the coronavirus pandemic. She said more than 6,400 ballots were late to be counted in the August primary.
However, the appeals court said the pandemic and any delivery issues “are not imputable to the state”.
“While these factors can make the plaintiffs’ voting process difficult, they do not automatically constitute a loss of the right to vote,” the court said, noting that hundreds of special boxes have been set up across Michigan.
The court also overturned another part of Stephens’ decision that would have allowed a non-family member to cast a full ballot in the days leading up to the election if a voter had consented.
Benson and Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel, both Democrats, had refused to appeal Stephen’s rulings, leaving it to the Republican-controlled legislature to intervene.
“I am pleased with this unanimous decision to uphold the integrity of our electoral process and to oppose transgression of justice,” tweeted Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.
The Michigan Democratic Party was disappointed.
“Voters should not be penalized for delays in the US postal service or for unexpected emergencies that could make it a challenge for them to vote on election day,” the party said.
The case was heard by Appeals Judges Michael Gadola, Mark Boonstra and Thomas Cameron. All were named and subsequently elected governor by Rick Snyder, a Republican.
The lawsuit was filed by a group called the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans.
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