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Judge did not order Wisconsin to finish counting ballots on election night

September 30, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: A federal judge ordered Wisconsin must have all ballots counted by 8 p.m. on the day of the election.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A recent federal appeals court order made absentee ballots due by 8 p.m. on Election Day. It did not address how fast election officials must tally results. The situation has continued to change with a more recent ruling.

THE FACTS: A federal judge in Wisconsin had ruled on Sept. 21 that absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day could be counted in that state as long as they arrive up to six days after the election.

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Then on Sept. 27, a federal appeals court issued a stay, which temporarily halted the earlier ruling. That meant ballots in Wisconsin must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.

The situation changed again on Sept. 29, when a three- judge panel of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the original ruling, which reinstated the extended deadline.

Social media users have distorted the news about the Sept. 27 ruling by claiming a judge has imposed that deadline on election officials to tally votes.

“Boom; A federal judge just ordered Wisconsin must have all ballots counted by 8 pm on the day of the election,” reads a post that was shared more than 1,800 times on Facebook.

But that is incorrect. That ruling pertained to the deadline absentee ballots must be received by election officials in order to be counted, not how quickly officials must tally the votes.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536