A U.S. federal appeals court has upheld a ruling allowing Wisconsin’s absentee ballots in the November general election to be counted if they arrive up to six days after Election Day.
The panel of three judges, all appointed by Republican presidents, agreed with a September lower court ruling that said if the ballots are postmarked by November 3, they can be accepted for counting as long as they arrive by November 9.
The Republican National Committee and Wisconsin Republicans argued against allowing the deadline extension and could appeal Tuesday’s ruling. They said voters had plenty of time to obtain and return an absentee ballot by Election Day.
Wisconsin Democrats welcomed the court’s decision and said it would give more people in the state an opportunity to “have their voices heard in this election.”
Absentee voting has been a focus of the election in the United States this year with state officials allowing more flexibility for people to cast ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Tuesday, about 1.2 million absentee ballots had been requested in Wisconsin and more than 308,000 returned.
The state is one of the key battlegrounds that will determine whether President Donald Trump wins another term or whether former Vice President Joe Biden takes over the White House in January. Trump won Wisconsin by less than 1 percentage point in 2016 and recent opinion polls show Biden with a slight lead.
Eighteen other U.S. states allow ballots to be counted even if they arrive in the mail after Election Day. Almost all of them require the ballots to be postmarked by Election Day to be eligible, except in Iowa and Ohio where the deadline is November 2.
The receipt deadlines vary, with Texas allowing just one extra day, six states allowing until November 6, two accepting ballots until November 9, four others giving until November 10, and three states allowing until November 13 for the ballots to arrive in the mail to be counted.
Illinois allows until November 17, while California has the latest receipt deadline — November 20.
Louisiana is the only U.S. state that requires absentee ballots to be received by the day before the election.