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Federal judge extends online voter registration in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has extended its online voter registration deadline from March 18 to March 30 after a federal judge's ruling Friday. File Photo by Bob Strong/UPI
Wisconsin has extended its online voter registration deadline from March 18 to March 30 after a federal judge's ruling Friday. File Photo by Bob Strong/UPI | License Photo

March 21 (UPI) -- A federal judge has extended the online voter registration deadline in Wisconsin's primary election in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled that the online portal, which had been shut down after Wednesday, should be reinstated until March 30 for the April 7 election due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Not extending the deadline past Wednesday would have put voters in an "excruciating dilemma," since they would have to "either venture into public spaces, contrary to public directives and health guidelines or stay at home and lose the opportunity to vote," Conley wrote in his opinion.

The decision was a partial win for the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

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They had asked for both electronic and by-mail voter registration to be extended to April 3 because of the "growing coronavirus threat."

The number of COVID-19 cases statewide grew to 206 Friday, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, with a total of four deaths.

In addition to the presidential primary, the April 7 ballot includes races for the state Supreme Court, Milwaukee mayor, Milwaukee County executive and other offices.

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State officials have said it could take up to 72 hours to resume online voter registration.

Conley also denied state Democratic Party and DNC's other request for absentee ballots to be counted after election day in light of increased demand for such ballots.

Still, he raised the possibility in his 21-page ruling he might reconsider his decision in coming weeks.

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"While this request may have merit, and may be of assistance for the Elections Commission and municipal clerks should state and local officials not fulfill their promise to ensure sufficient staffing before and on election day, the court will not speculate about the need for this relief on the limited record before it," Conley wrote in his opinion. "Instead ... the court will allow plaintiffs to pursue additional relief in a motion for preliminary injunction, with a more robust record, following the court's guidelines."

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