In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the favor of the GOP on an extremely important issue: Minnesota’s plan to count absentee ballots received after Election Day.
Ruling against the Minnesota Secretary of State, Democrat Steve Simon, the Appeals Court said that the deadline extension was an unconstitutional maneuver by Simon.
“However well-intentioned and appropriate from a policy perspective in the context of a pandemic during a presidential election, it is not the province of a state executive official to re-write the state’s election code,” the decision stated.
“There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution,” the majority wrote.
The Court sent the case back to a lower court, and instructed it to require election officials to identify and “segregate” absentee ballots received after Nov. 3.
The litigation is still in a preliminarily stage, and those ballots would not be counted if a final judgment is decided in the favor of the GOP.
This ruling came one day after the Supreme Court kept extended deadlines for receiving mail-in ballots in place in both North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
In a call with reporters, Simon said that the timing of the ruling was “unnecessarily disruptive” and that Minnesota voters should find alternatives to mailing in their ballots.
“Just shy of 400,000” absentee ballots that were ordered by voters have not yet been received, according to Simon.
“They could be in transit or they could be on coffee tables throughout Minnesota,” he said.
Simon also noted that the ruling was “confusing,” saying that it was not clear whether the segregated ballots would be included in the official results.
According to Simon, Minnesota officials are considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat Senator from Minnesota, said on Twitter that because of the “last minute” ruling, voters should cast their ballot in person or take a mail-in ballot directly to election officials.
“In the middle of a pandemic, the Republican Party is doing everything to make it hard for you to vote,” Klobuchar said.
Circuit Judges Bobby Shepherd and L. Steven Grasz, the two judges in the majority, were both appointed by Republicans. Shepherd was appointed by former President George W. Bush, while Grasz was appointed by President Donald Trump.
Circuit Judge Jane Kelly, the one dissenting vote, was appointed by former President Barack Obama.
Current Minnesota law requires that absentee ballots are received by Election Day. That deadline was extended through a settlement reached by Simon and a citizens group that sued earlier this year.
Under that judge-approved settlement, state election officials would have been able to count ballots received until Nov. 10 as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3.
The settlement also said if a mail-in ballot was missing a postmark, election officials should assume it was mailed by Nov. 3 unless evidence showed otherwise.
“The Democrats are losing it. Their efforts to manipulate our election laws met a road block today: the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and the law,” Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said on Twitter.
“The integrity of our election to have votes in by 8 pm Election Day is intact. We will always applaud freedom and fairness,” she added.