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Judge upholds Minnesota's 7-day extension for mail-in ballots

Mail-in ballots received within seven days of the election will be counted so long as they're postmarked by Election Day (Nov. 3).

A federal judge's ruling means mail-in absentee ballots received up to seven days after Election Day – but are postmarked by Nov. 3 – can be counted in Minnesota.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel on Sunday upheld a state court agreement between Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, and a citizens' right group that allowed the seven-day extension, according to court documents, which journalist Tony Webster posted to Twitter.

"We are grateful that the court's decision left intact the rules that have been agreed upon for the upcoming general election," Simon told Bring Me The News in a statement Monday.

Prior to this agreement, ballots had to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day or they wouldn't be counted. The citizens' right group pushed for the extension over concerns about voter safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Following the extension agreement, Republican state Rep. Eric Lucero and GOP activist James Carson filed a federal lawsuit against Simon, which is backed by the conservative-leaning Honest Elections Project, seeking a preliminary injunction. 

The Republicans, who would both participate in the Electoral College if President Donald Trump wins Minnesota, argued the extension to count mail-in ballots after Election Day violates federal law that establishes Nov. 3, 2020, as the date of the election. 

However, Brasel ruled Lucero and Carson lack standing to bring their claims and denied their motion seeking a preliminary injunction.  

The ruling notes that the Secretary of State and news media have publicized the postmarked deadline of Nov. 3 for ballots to be sent back this year, so changing it now to require ballots to be received by Election Day would cause confusion for voters. 

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This ruling comes a few days after a ruling was made in a similar case in Wisconsin that sought to extend the mail-in voting deadline. A federal appeals court last week blocked the extension, marking a win for Republicans who have been fighting these types of attempts to expand voting across the country this year. 

The Associated Press says a majority of states require mail-in ballots to be received by Election Day, but some do accept mail-in ballots in the days and weeks following so long as they're postmarked by Election Day. 

Mail-in absentee voting is a popular way to vote this year due to the pandemic, despite President Donald Trump and some Republicans continued rhetoric aimed at discrediting the safety of mail-in ballots and the validity of this year's election, with the president repeatedly lying about the prevalence of voter fraud (it's very rare). 

The president has also stressed the need for a winner to be declared on election night, despite election officials and the FBI warning it could take longer to certify results this year due to the significant increase in mail voting. Meanwhile, he's been reluctant to say if he'd even accept the results of the election. 

In Minnesota, hundreds of thousands of people have already voted for the Nov. 3 election, either via mail-in ballot or early in-person voting. According to the Secretary of State, as of Oct. 9, more than 1.3 million Minnesotans have applied to vote from home and 601,094 mail-in ballots have been returned and accepted. 

That's exponentially higher than at this time in the 2016 presidential election when 281,532 people had applied to vote by mail-in ballot. 

For more information on how to vote where you live in Minnesota, visit the Secretary of State's website here or contact your county election office (details on how to do that here).

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