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St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - A federal appeals court panel has ruled absentee ballots in Minnesota must be returned to election officials on election day to ensure they will be counted.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled a challenge of the Minnesota Secretary of State's decision to allow absentee ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by election day and returned to election officials within seven days would likely succeed. Minnesota Republicans argue the extension is illegal without legislative authorization. Secretary of State Steve Simon countered that it was too late to make the change so close to the election.

The appeals court decision grants an injunction preventing election officials from implementing the extension and requires they identify, segregate, and preserve the absentee ballots that are received after the polls close at 8 PM on Tuesday. It's unclear if the Secretary of State will appeal the ruling.

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