The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that voters in the U.S. state of Wisconsin need to return their ballots to election officials by the time polls close on November 3 in order to be counted.
The court sided with Republicans who challenged an earlier decision by a lower court judge to extend the deadline to accept any ballots that were postmarked by November 3 but arrived by November 9.
Ballot deadlines vary by state, and as legal challenges have played out in recent weeks, the courts have generally supported rules put in place by state legislatures or election officials.
“No one doubts that conducting a national election amid a pandemic poses serious challenges,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion. “But none of that means individual judges may improvise with their own election rules in place of those the people’s representatives have adopted.”
Republicans in multiple cases have argued there is enough time for voters to return their ballots by November 3, while Democrats argued extensions are necessary with historic numbers of people casting mail-in ballots in order to avoid gathering at polling sites on election day due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Justice Elena Kagan, one of three liberals on the Supreme Court who dissented in the 5-3 decision, wrote that the ruling "will disenfranchise large numbers of responsible voters in the midst of hazardous pandemic conditions."
The Wisconsin Elections Commission reported Monday that 1.7 million people had requested to vote by absentee ballot, and that 1.34 million had either cast a ballot by mail or voted absentee in person.
Nationwide, more than 64 million people had either cast mail-in ballots or voted early in person as of Monday night, according to the U.S. Elections Project.
About 20 of the 50 U.S. states currently allow ballots to come in after Election Day as long as they are postmarked by November 3.