The three liberal justices dissented from the order that the court issued just before the Senate started voting on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination.
Republicans opposed the extension, saying that voters have plenty of opportunities to cast their ballots by the close of polls on Election Day and that the rules should not be changed so close to the election.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler responded to the ruling by pledging Democrats would be “dialing up a huge voter education campaign” to prod roughly 360,000 people who hadn’t yet returned absentee ballots to hand-deliver them by 8 p.m. on Election Day, or to vote in person.
State Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt praised the ruling.
"Absentee voting in Wisconsin is extremely easy and hundreds of thousands of people have done it already — last-minute attempts to change election laws only cause more voter confusion and erode the integrity of our elections,” he said in a statement.
The justices often say nothing, or very little, about the reasons for their votes in these emergency cases, but on Monday, four justices wrote opinions totaling 35 pages to lay out their competing rationales.
“As the COVID pandemic rages, the Court has failed to adequately protect the Nation’s voters,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent that noted the state allowed the six-day extension for primary voting in April and that roughly 80,000 ballots were received after the day of the primary election.
Justice Neil Gorsuch acknowledged the complications the pandemic adds to voting, but defended the court's action.
“No one doubts that conducting a national election amid a pandemic poses serious challenges. But none of that means individual judges may improvise with their own election rules in place of those the people’s representatives have adopted,” Gorsuch wrote.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh also wrote an opinion concurring in the order.