Appeals court changes rules for MN absentee ballots received after Election Day

Pending a further challenge, votes received after 8 p.m. on Election Day may not be counted.

With just five days to go before Election Day, a court has reversed Minnesota's rule that allows absentee ballots to be counted up to a week later.

The rule allowing ballots to be counted up to 7 days after Nov. 3 provided they were mailed by Election Day was approved by Secretary of State Steve Simon earlier this year, after a suit was filed by citizen groups seeking to ease mail-in voting requirements amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this was challenged by two Republicans last month, and the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor on Thursday afternoon

It means that any absentee ballots that arrive after the 8 p.m. cutoff on Nov. 3 will be set aside and preserved in the event of a legal challenge that rules they're ultimately allowed, but the judges on the appeals court panel said that this was unlikely.

However, in the complicated 2-1 ruling, even if the late-arriving votes are not allowed, the ruling suggests this may only apply to the presidential election, and congressional, state, or local votes may still count.

In any case, anyone who has mailed in their ballots in the past few days, or who had planned to mail their vote in the coming days, should now plan to vote in person, or submit your absentee ballot at a drop-off location, or your county elections office. That's because the USPS has advised they can't guarantee votes will arrive on time as of Tuesday.

If you have already mailed your ballot, you can check its status here. If it has not yet been accepted, you can vote early in person at your county elections office, at one of the early voting sites across Minnesota, or at your polling place on Election Day. More information here.

The extended deadline was put in place due to concern over COVID-19, and its reversal following the GOP challenge comes at a time of record COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Minnesota.

Republicans have been making similar efforts in other states, including in Wisconsin, with data showing more Democrats were likely to vote by mail because of the pandemic.

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