CHICAGO (CBS) — A federal appeals court has rejected an attempt in Indiana to extend ballot counting to Nov. 13, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and potential problems with delivering an increased number of mail ballots on time.
Indiana law requires all ballots to be received by noon on Election Day to count. Indiana District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued an injuntion requiring Indiana to count all mail ballots received until Nov. 13, ruling that that the Constitution requires all absentee votes be free of risk that they would not count. Because the pandemic created a risk that some ballots would be delivered late and not count, the state’s noon requirement was unconsititutional, she ruled.
Common Cause Indiana and the state’s NAACP chapter had filed a lawsuit seeking the extension.
A three judge panel with the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago disagreed and let the noon deadline stand. The appeals court said it has ruled previously that as long as in person voting is available, there is no constitutional right to vote by mail. Voters, the judges added, also have time to obtain a mail ballot and submit it well before the noon Election Day deadline.
Further, it is not the role of federal judges to change state election law, especially close to an election. If Indiana wanted to extend the deadline, then it would be up to elected leadership to do so, they said..
“That some people are unwilling to vote in person does not make an otherwise valid system unconstitutional,” the judges said in their decision.
“It is for states to decide what sort of adjustments would be prudent. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has caused great harm but is not a good reason for the federal judiciary to assume tasks that belong to politically responsible individuals.”