Absentee ballots cast in Indiana must arrive by noon on Election Day to be counted, a federal appeals court said Tuesday, throwing out a 10-day extension ordered by a judge.
In ordering the extension in a decision announced Sept. 30, Southern Indiana District Court Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker cited slow mail delivery because of the coronavirus as a reason for extending the count if ballots were postmarked by Nov. 3. But the appeals court, in a 3-0 opinion, overturned the decision and said Indiana’s noon rule still stands.
The “pandemic has caused great loss but is not a good reason for the federal judiciary to assume tasks that belong to politically responsible officials,” said Judge Frank Easterbrook of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“It is rational to require absentee votes to be received by Election Day, just as in-person voting ends on Election Day. … Counting the votes, and announcing the results, as soon as possible after the polls close serves a civic interest,” Easterbrook wrote.
The lawsuit was filed by Common Cause Indiana and the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP. They said about 1,500 ballots in Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, and 400 in Hamilton County were rejected in the primary election because they arrived after the noon deadline.
Indiana voters who want a mail-in ballot must apply by Oct. 22. They also must have a reason accepted by the state.
The 7th Circuit also has stopped an effort to count late-arriving ballots in Wisconsin. Republicans in Michigan are in a different court appealing a decision to count absentee ballots that arrive 14 days after the election.