Law & the Courts

SCOTUS’s Conservative Majority Blocks Wisconsin Dems’ Attempt to Extend Absentee Voting

(Erin Schaff/Reuters)

The Supreme Court ruled along ideological lines in a 5-4 decision to block an extension of absentee voting for Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary, with the conservative majority siding with state Republicans who had argued the extension would create “a fundamental unfairness that undermines the integrity of the election.”

The case, which was brought to the court on Saturday by Wisconsin Republicans and the Republican National Committee, came after U.S. District Judge William M. Conley declined to postpone in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, but extended absentee voting until April 13 — a ruling upheld by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit on Friday.

The decision comes after the Wisconsin Supreme Court halted Democratic governor Tony Evers’s executive order that attempted to suspend in-person voting for Tuesday’s elections.

The unsigned conservative majority opinion pointed to the court’s longstanding opposition to last-minute orders by federal judges that altered election procedures, and a 2014 decision that halted implementation of a Republican-backed voter ID law in Wisconsin just weeks before that year’s general election.

“The Court’s decision on the narrow question before the Court should not be viewed as expressing an opinion on the broader question of whether to hold the election, or whether other reforms or modifications in election procedures in light of COVID–19 are appropriate. That point cannot be stressed enough,” the majority opinion said.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was joined by her liberal colleagues in dissent.

“The Court’s suggestion that the current situation is not ‘substantially different’ from ‘an ordinary election’ boggles the mind,” she wrote.

Ben Wikler, the chairman of the Wisconsin Democrats, expressed outrage at the decision. “I am about to explode . . . the Supreme Court of the United States legislated from the bench today, following Trump team’s orders and writing a new election law to disenfranchise untold thousands of Wisconsin voters and consign an unknown number of Wisconsinites to their deaths,” he tweeted.

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