Delayed-in-the-mail extensions for absentee ballots have now been ordered by courts in all three of the crucial Great Lakes battlegrounds, increasing the odds for a more comprehensive but also a more prolonged presidential election.
The later deadlines that judges have ordered in the past week in Pennsylvania, Michigan and now Wisconsin are far from locked in place, however, because Republican efforts to reverse them are likely in all three states — with their collective 46 electoral votes central to President Trump's reelection prospects.
Federal Judge William Conley, for starters, has put in limbo for one week his own order on Tuesday, that Wisconsin ballots postmarked by Election Day be counted as valid if received by local clerks by Nov. 9, a six-day extension. He said he was putting a hold on that ruling to avoid confusion if his decision is overturned on appeal, and to keep the pressure on Wisconsinites to vote early.
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A rare spurt of important victories, in three courthouses stretched across the country, has voting rights advocates breathing a little easier about the prospects for a smooth and reliable presidential election.
In battleground Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court significantly eased the use of mail-in ballots on Thursday by ordering they be counted even if they arrive three days after Election Day and by permitting an expanded deployment of drop boxes.
A few hours later, a federal judge blocked a law in tossup Michigan that makes it a crime to hire drivers to take someone else to the polls.
And by day's end another federal judge, in Washington state, had blocked all the operational and policy changes made by the Postal Service this summer, concluding the way they had slowed the mail in recent months would amount to "voter disenfranchisement" if continued into November.
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Fresh numbers about voting fraud in Wisconsin, one of the essential tossup states in the presidential race, offer the latest evidence underscoring how wrong President Trump is about widespread cheating delegitimizing the election.
Nineteen. That's the grand total of instances of suspected fraud statewide during the past three elections: the 2018 midterm, the presidential primary in April and the regular primary last month. That's out of more than 5.2 million ballots cast in those elections.
And just three of the cases involved misuse of mailed ballots, the report Wednesday from the state Elections Commission said, even though voters have smashed previous records for Wisconsin's no-excuse absentee voting system amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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Profound election complications have been averted in Wisconsin thanks to its judicial system, an exception to the trend of court decisions making voting during the pandemic more problematic in presidential battlegrounds.
Wisconsin's Supreme Court, which pushed the state's election toward fresh chaos last week, reversed course on Monday. The justices ruled the Green Party's ticket will not appear on the ballot, meaning more than a million vote-by-mail packets can be distributed and won't be delayed by a massive and expensive reprinting — and that thousands more ballots already delivered won't need to be replaced.
While the decision was an unexpected judicial victory for the cause of a smooth and comprehensive election despite the coronavirus — the good-governance movement's overriding objective for the year — it was a defeat for a long-term goal of many of those same democracy reformers: breaking the two-party duopoly, which is behind so much governing dysfunction, by propping up independent and outsider campaigns.
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