Tanzina Vega: More than 75 million Americans have already cast their vote for President of the United States. Some by standing in line early voting and others by mail and ballot. The United States Supreme Court has already decided three major voting cases this week alone affecting the battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Meanwhile, all this week, we've been hearing from you about how voting is going.
Stephen: This is Stephen Trimble calling from Upper Providence, PA. We voted via absentee ballot in an official dropbox. Our experience was incredibly easy. We filled out our ballots. My wife and I filled out our ballots, shine them correctly, put them in their secrecy envelope, and then their outer envelope, and then we went to the dropbox location, which was easily found. There was no line there. There were two poll workers there. They instructed us how to insert the ballot into the dropbox. We did so. They were out of stickers so we didn't receive that and we left.
Tanzina Vega: The stickers are important to a lot of folks. Joining me now to talk about the recent SCOTUS rulings is Jami Floyd, the senior editor for the race and justice unit here at WNYC, and our resident Supreme Court expert. Jami, welcome to the show.
Jami: Hello, Tanzina.
Tanzina Vega: Let's start in Wisconsin, Jami. On Monday, the US Supreme Court refused to hear a case that could have extended Wisconsin's deadline for receiving absentee ballots. What was the court's reasoning? Would you consider this a win for the Republicans?
Jami: It's difficult to ascertain the court's reasoning because this was a brief unsigned order. As is typical when they refuse to take up a case, the court gave no reasoning. The vote was five to three, we can glean some things. The Court refused to take the case. That means they refuse to revive the trial court ruling, which as you say, Tanzina, would have extended Wisconsin's deadline for receiving ballots to six days after the election. Yes, it's considered a victory for Republicans in a crucial swing state which polls have shown Mr. Trump is trailing after winning by about 23,000 votes in 2016. Several justices, Tanzina, did file concurring and dissenting opinions that span 35 pages and revealed a stark divide in their views on voting during this pandemic.
Tanzina Vega: This is interesting because we know that the Supreme Court for a while under Chief Justice Roberts has had a pretty contentious relationship with voting cases. Before we get to that, I do want to talk about Pennsylvania. There were two decisions that came through yesterday. Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court has refused for a second time, this time the Republican Party's efforts, to block an extension for counting absentee ballots in that state. What did they do there? It feels like almost the opposite that happened in Wisconsin is it?
Jami: That's right. It's a little bit of a tennis match going back and forth with your head pivoting each way in the land of the law. There the US Supreme Court also refusing to take the case. This is for a second time in Pennsylvania, the Republican Party trying to block a three-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Pennsylvania, another key state. They're leaving in place a decision by the state Supreme Court based on the state constitution, that would have extended it by three days there, the period for counting absentee ballots, past Election Day. Last week, the court upheld the state decision by a tie vote with Chief Justice Roberts joining the three liberals on the court and later explaining that state courts are free to interpret their own state constitutions in voting cases.
Tanzina Vega: Of course, the third state also a critical state, a battleground state, North Carolina. What did the Supreme Court rule in that state?
Jami: It's essentially the same case, as the Pennsylvania case simply not coming up for a second bite at the apple, just the first bite at the apple, but again, refusing to block extensions, Republicans were trying to block extensions. This one looks very much like the Pennsylvania case.
Tanzina Vega: The Supreme Court also has a new member as of this week, Amy Coney Barrett, who did not participate in these rulings. However, or in these decisions, I should say, but she does mean-- her seating on the Supreme Court means that there is now a six-person conservative majority, Jami, as you know. What does that tell us for what we can expect after the election when it comes to voting rights cases?
Jami: Again, indeed the Pennsylvania in that case, one of the counties had filed but then withdrew a request for the new justice to recuse herself but still, she didn't participate in any of these cases because she didn't get there quite in time for it. The arguments had been presented and a statement by the court, in fact, said that she would not participate because they needed to promptly resolve the questions given that the election is bearing down upon us.
A rather unusual statement from the court, not unusual that you wouldn't participate, just unusual that they issue these kinds of statements. It is noteworthy as you say, Tanzina, because we don't know what her vote might or might not have been, how it would have affected the outcome. We do know that she most assuredly will get one of these cases in the coming days or in the immediate aftermath of the election.
Tanzina Vega: President Trump has indicated, Jami, that the election should be called on election day. That's not something that's in the constitution, but it does bring up concerns about and almost a shadow of Bush v. Gore, which was back in 2000. We're already expecting this election not to be called potentially on election night even. Could SCOTUS play a role if there are concerns on Election Day?
Jami: It certainly could. Most troubling in the opinions you've cited, Tanzina, is a opinion written by Justice Kavanaugh in the Wisconsin case where he attempts to cite Bush v. Gore as precedent. Every scholar recognizes that Bush v. Gore is not precedent, even Justice Scalia who wrote that opinion did not see it as precedent so that's troubling. Yes, the supreme court could play a key role. Tanzina, our system is supposed to be decided by the voters, not by the courts. I leave you with the urgent plea, vote, vote like your whole life depends on it. That's the way democracy is supposed to work.
Tanzina Vega: Thank you so much for that. Jami Floyd is the senior editor for the race and justice unit here at WNYC. Jami, thanks so much.
Jami: Thank you for having me.
Tanzina Vega: Keep those early voting calls coming in. Give us a call with your experiences at 8778-MY-TAKE, that's 877-869-8253.
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