- Michigan judge Cynthia Stephens, citing the threat of the coronavirus and potential USPS delays, ruled on Friday that any absentee ballots that arrive up to two weeks after the presidential election must be counted.
- “The evidence in this case stands uncontroverted and establishes that the mail system is currently fraught with delays and uncertainty in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stephens said.
- Stephens’ ruling temporarily changes a Michigan law that states that absentee ballots must be received before polls close on Election Day in order to count.
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A Michigan state judge on Friday ruled that absentee ballots that arrive even days or weeks after the presidential election must be counted.
The decision brings an end to a lawsuit brought by Democratic groups that have been arguing late ballots should not be excluded from the final count in determining the next president. The ruling ensures envelopes postmarked November 3 will still be included in Michigan’s final tally of the votes.
Normally, the law in Michigan states that absentee ballots must be received before polls close on Election Day in order to count. Because of this requirement, more than 80% of the absentee ballots sent in for the state’s August primary went uncounted.
Judge Cynthia Stephens of Michigan’s Court of Claims extended the requirement, according to multiple reports, ruling that absentee ballots can be counted two weeks after polls close on Election Day.
Nationwide, the number of requests for mail-in ballots is expected to skyrocket for the presidential election, as Americans opt to stay away from the polls in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
As of September 15, more than 2.2 million absentee ballot requests have been submitted to the Michigan secretary of state’s office, according to a news update.
Stephens cited the coronavirus and USPS delays as the reasoning behind her ruling, saying the order applies to the upcoming presidential election only, the Detroit Free Press reported.
“The evidence in this case stands uncontroverted and establishes that the mail system is currently fraught with delays and uncertainty in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stephens said.
Experts have warned that, unlike presidential elections in the past, Americans are not likely to know who won this year until several weeks after Election Day.
The decision comes at a critical juncture for President Donald Trump and rival Joe Biden, who are each vying for votes in the battleground state with less than two months to go until the election. Trump won Michigan in 2016 by about 10,700 votes.
In Michigan, Biden leads Trump by about 4 percentage points, according to a polling average from Real Clear Politics. Nationally, Biden also maintains a lead, positioned ahead of Trump by about 6 percentage points, according to the Real Clear Politics national polling average.
Neither the Trump nor Biden campaigns immediately responded to a request for comment from Business Insider.