Republican lawmakers asked the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday to hear arguments in a case that extended the deadline for absentee ballots to be counted in Wisconsin, after losing the lawsuit twice before a three-judge panel from the Court.
The new motion was filed late Sept. 24, after the court declined a request by Republicans to suspend a ruling that will allow absentee ballots to be counted for six days after Election Day. The judges determined Republican lawmakers and arms of the Republican Party did not have the authority to pursue an appeal of the initial ruling.
The order Republicans are challenging, currently in effect, also extends the deadline to request an absentee ballot by one week. The deadline to register online or by mail is now Oct. 21. The decision also allows voters who request absentee ballots but don’t receive them in the mail to get a replacement electronically between Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.
In an interview in front of the court panel Wednesday, state Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said the party would keep the case before the appeals court for now, but are unhappy with the initial rulings.
"I’m worried about the clock, I’m worried about voter confusion, I’m worried about us changing the rules at the last minute and, mostly, I’m worried about the fact that this creates potential litigation issues and ballot-challenge issues after Election Day," Hitt said.
However, nonpartisan entities that have been pushing for rule changes across the country argue that the extensions are necessary to ensure voting rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All Wisconsin voters — regardless of their party or where they live — benefit from election procedures designed to be safe and effective during the ongoing challenges of voting during a pandemic. The decision paves the way [for] a safer, more inclusive election in November,” said Farbod Faraji, an attorney with Protect Democracy who helped with litigation, in a statement.
The court said the decision upheld previous lame duck laws passed in 2018, that allows the Legislature to represent its own interest in lawsuits, but not the state’s — which means lawmakers aren’t entitled to defend the validity of a state law.
However, in last night’s filing, the attorneys for GOP lawmakers argued the three-judge panel had erred on several fronts, including that U.S. Supreme Court precedent already gave lawmakers standing to challenge state interests.
If the appeal fails in front of the full appellate court, Republican lawmakers may take the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.