Fulton County election workers sort absentee ballots during a pilot audit after the June 9 primary. (Stephen Fowler/GPB News)

A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court ruled against a change in Georgia’s absentee ballot deadline because of the coronavirus pandemic Friday.

This story also appeared in Georgia Public Broadcasting

In a 2-1 decision, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to stay a district court ruling that would have required any ballot postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3, and received by Nov. 6 to be counted.


“Federal judges can have a lot of power – especially when issuing injunctions,” the opinion from Judge Britt Grant read. “But the Constitution sets out our sphere of decision-making, and that sphere does not extend to second-guessing and interfering with a State’s reasonable, nondiscriminatory election rules.”

This decision invalidates Judge Eleanor Ross’ ruling late August that “the risk of disenfranchisement is great” because of the ongoing public health crisis.

“We are glad the 11th Circuit recognized that long-standing Georgia law should remain in place for this election,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement. “The absentee ballot receipt deadline remains 7:00 p.m. on Election Day and Georgia’s election officials have made it easier than ever for voters to meet that deadline by implementing online absentee ballot requests to streamline the request process and secure drop boxes to allow contactless return of absentee ballots.”

More than 1.4 million Georgians have already requested their absentee ballot for November, and can return their absentee ballot through the mail, in person to their county elections office, or to a secure drop box.

This story is comes to us through a reporting partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Stephen Fowler/GPB News

Stephen Fowler is political reporter for Georgia Public Broadcasting.