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Federal judge delays order on Missouri’s mail-in ballots while Ashcroft appeals

Federal judge delays order on Missouri’s mail-in ballots while Ashcroft appeals

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ST. LOUIS — A federal judge on Saturday delayed his order requiring Missouri election officials to allow mail-in ballots to be submitted in person.

U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes of Kansas City granted Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s emergency motion for a stay, pending the state’s appeal of his order to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Wimes’ surprise ruling on Friday would have tweaked a controversial requirement for casting mail-in ballots by allowing voters to return mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 election in person. The current statute, enacted earlier this year by the Legislature, required that the ballots be sent by mail and that the ballot envelope be notarized. Wimes’ order did not address the notarization requirement.

The state argued in its emergency motion seeking a stay that voting under the current process “is already in full swing,” and that almost 60,000 Missourians had already voted by absentee ballot as of Sept. 30. Local election authorities “lack the staff and resources to implement a new process midway through voting-by-mail,” the state argued.

“This attempt to change the rules for voting-by-mail weeks after it started is like asking the Court to change the rules for in-person voting at noon on Election Day, after hundreds of thousands of voters have already cast their ballots. The relief far exceeds the proper role and authority of the federal courts.”

Wimes’ ruling came just hours after the Missouri Supreme Court, in a separate case, rejected a bid to ease requirements for casting ballots remotely during a pandemic.

The case before the federal court was filed by several organizations seeking to make the mail-in voting process easier. Those groups include the Organization for Black Struggle, Missouri Faith Voices, the St. Louis and Greater Kansas City Chapters of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and the National Council of Jewish Women St. Louis Section.

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