SCOTUStalk Heads To The Ballot Box: The Supreme Court And The 2020 Election

from SCOTUSblog

Ever since Bush v. Gore, the case that effectively decided the 2000 presidential race, the Supreme Court increasingly has been asked to intervene in fraught disputes over election procedures. Add in a pandemic, and the 2020 election season promises to be unprecedented. This week on SCOTUStalk, SCOTUSblog’s social media editor, Katie Barlow, joins Amy Howe to break down the court’s influence on the election. They survey major election-related rulings the justices have already handed down this summer and preview what role the court might play in the run-up to Election Day – and, potentially, the weeks afterward. Katie and Amy also discuss the launch of an exciting new project between SCOTUSblog and Election Law at Ohio State: the 2020 Election Litigation Tracker.

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  1. Many people think that presidential elections are clear-cut procedures that have been established since the enactment of the United States Constitution. This is not true, however, as our federal government is often entangled in conflicts that arise as the election year proceeds. Many variables can have an effect on the outcome of a presidential election. From the nuances of the Electoral College and its powers to the worries of voter-fraud due in the upcoming election, many things can directly influence an election. An important piece of the puzzle is the Supreme Court of the United States.

    The Supreme Court is often called in to decide upon matters of election procedures. One of the most famous examples of this responsibility or power of the Supreme Court appeared in Bush v. Gore. The decision of the court in this case was a deciding factor in the presidential race of 2000. Similar to the 2016 Presidential election between President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the nominee with the most popular votes did not win the election. The 2000 race between former President Bush and Al Gore was so close that the laws in the state of Florida required there to be a recount before their Electoral College votes could be permanently cast to either presidential candidate. The Supreme Court Case, Bush v. Gore, ended in controversy with a 5-4 Supreme Court Justice vote that ended the recount. There is much speculation as to whether a recount could have changed the results of the election, although nothing could be said for certain. This is a very important example of the power of the Supreme Court in situations regarding presidential elections as their vote could have potentially changed who won the election.

    There have been other instances where the Supreme Court had an influence on elections. The Supreme Court case of Purcell v. Gonzalez created what is known as the Purcell principle. This principle forbids the changing of any election rules too close to the beginning of an election. The reasoning behind this principle is that the changes to the law could potentially confuse voters and create a plentitude of issues for voting officials. An issue that could arise from the changing of voting laws could be the voiding of ballets because the voter did not follow the precise voting procedure. If a voter does not know that a change has been implemented to voting procedural law, how is it fair that their vote will not count? The Supreme Court of the United States deemed that it is not.

    Voters need to be aware of the power of the Supreme Court when it comes to election procedures. While it may seem like presidential elections are only involved with the executive branch of the federal government, the highest court of the United States in the judicial branch plays an important role as well. When laws are challenged or changed, it is the Supreme Court’s job to ensure the constitutionality of these changes. In an election year such as this one where the race seems to be between clear right and wrong from both political parties, it is important to understand how Supreme Court Justices can affect the election.

  2. The Supreme Court’s election power has been displayed multiple times, highlighted in the supremely controversial Bush v. Gore decision, which ended in the conservative justices ruling 5-4 to end the swing-state Florida’s recount, ensuring George W. Bush wins the 2000 presidential election. Amy Howe and Katie Barlow’s conversation for SCOTUSblog highlights this case as they discuss the Supreme Court and election law in preparation for the 2020 election. I recently found myself getting more anxious about this topic in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and the want for President Trump and the GOP to rush a justice on the court before the election. This conversation happened a little before Ginsburg’s death, so reading this with that in mind feels too calm, but I found their conversation interesting nonetheless.

    I had never heard of the Purcell principle, the principle that the Supreme Court cannot change election rules in close proximity to an election, prior to reading this conversation and I love that principle. It lessens confusion among the voting populace and ensures there are no surprise rule changes benefitting one side or another. This makes the conversation around the current Supreme Court vacancy and the rush to confirm a justice. President Trump today said he expects the election results to be contested in the Supreme Court, as stated in this NPR article https://www.npr.org/2020/09/23/916221894/trump-says-he-expect-election-results-to-end-up-at-supreme-court. His words and the GOP senate’s willingness to hold a vote on a nominee that hasn’t been named yet to possibly verify election results that haven’t been produced yet in one of the tensest elections in US History to find election fraud that may or may not occur screams partisan power grabbing to me and increases my fear of Trump and the GOP try to rush declaring victory and ruining democracy in the United States. Katie mentions how cases like Bush v. Gore decide elections and if this country reaches a point of a Trump v. Biden Supreme Court election case, I fear the GOP’s partisan power grabbing in this moment will lead to ruined election integrity and lead the United States even closer to almost authortarian levels of government control.

  3. The Scotustalk discussion worked to speak on the issues that the supreme court may face with the upcoming election, with both sides potentially needing legal litigation to determine the results. Overall the discussion worked as a Q+A on various topics and concerns facing the highest court during election season with both sides looking to them for intervention. Beyond summary, the article worked as a warning about where distrust in an electoral process will ultimately lead. With both sides of the isle publicly spreading concerns and fear about an unsafe election it’s easy to see the potential cracks in a democratic system that we’ve come to rely on. While we have always been able to accept the transference of power and secure elections as given, this election is sending a lot of red flags about what would occur without that safety. The active fear of one side not accepting the results of the election is a frightening prospect: one that will need to be determined through the SCOTUS ruling.
    This podcast/ blog post was a timely discussion, to say the least, in the week since RBGs passed. With the supreme court now in active contention politically and the concerns about the court’s role in the election, it’s a small wonder that there is a great deal of unease. The legal discontent is twofold with an unfilled seat: who should fill it, and will the court be able to fairly litigate based on that filing. In a strange way this uncertainty of the court is reminiscent of the Purcell president that the article discusses. The Purcell principle functionally means that there should be no major changes in election law within the period directly prior to the election. This principle exists so that incumbent lawmakers cannot make last-minute changes to the legal framework of the election to skew the results in their favor. The RGB situation resembles this principle in an unfortunate way this election. With an understanding that the supreme court might need to intervene to legitimize the electoral results; a changing of the court is functionally a changing of the laws of the election. While the situation is not exactly one-to-one, judges don’t always support every case their appointing president does after all, the active concern and issue still remains.
    I think the most shocking thing about this podcast was the drastic shift in election president over the last 4years alone; not a legal president, however, a political one. With both parties looking to the courts for legitimacy it’s hard to argue that there is a consistent trust in our elections. With that lack of trust people turn to courts to settle those disputes, but I feel the courts effectively heal the symptoms of that mistrust, not the cause. Courts work to build a consistent safety net of legitimacy when a society mutually agrees with its authority: but when you’re determining political power, there’s a lot at stake. People can argue that the courts themselves are part of that system that falls into a corrupted electorate and continue to chip away at their institutional respect. If the court’s decisions are seen as political decisions and not legal ones, it undoes the whole framework they stand on in many respects. We’ve all heard what happens when a house… you know.

  4. the election will be something I never seen before. the debate was very childish and its not what I expected from your president and a wanting to be president. the Republican Party are very ignorant and don’t like to be told that they are wrong or that they are wrong. They think that they are always correct and they think that you can’t correct them. As we all know they are racist and the rights that are very wrong, they think are right. They are very ignorant and we must put an end to this movement and show them what is right. There is going to be huge voting disagreement with everyone and what they believe is right. reading that the Supreme Court can’t change election rules is very good to hear because why would they? some presidents or runner ups may have that towards their benefits and that is not fair. I agree with what is should stay as because that is what the rule was passed as and what is right. that way everything is fair and everything is being done the correct way. This also comes to show that many rules can’t be changed for the way we live. For example if we want a rule to be introduced, it has to go though many groups of government in order to be passed so with that being said, why would we change rules of how the election would be going. Leave them the way they are because it also wouldn’t be fair to the other presidents or former runner ups, they would think they would have a better chance at maybe being president, so it would be fair to leave things the way they are, and if you’re going to win, you win the correct way and which is getting more votes than your opponent.

  5. This upcoming election in the United States is certainly going to be like no other one in American history. Since the beginning of America, citizens have been able to cast their vote for the next president on Election Day. Technology has advanced over the years where people could just go to a polling station, press a button, and the system would record the vote. Now in 2020, we are living in the middle of a pandemic since March. For safety precautions, we are all asked to vote by mail, which I am opposed to doing. This is my first election I am voting in and I would have liked to be able to go to the polling station and cast my vote in person. We now know that it is not going to be the case as mail in ballots have already been distributed throughout the country. With millions of ballots to record, it is nearly impossible that we will find out the election outcome on November 3. As a matter of fact, it might take several weeks to count all the ballots. With that being said, it might very well end up that the Supreme Court will have to vote on the next President. However, since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a seat on the Supreme Court is vacant. President Trump has already nominated the next justice Amy Coney Barret, but many arguments have risen over the fact that the next president should decide who that should be. This actually aggravates me to some extent. I am not big on politics at all, but it is easy to see that the Democrats do not want President Trump to nominate anyone because they know whoever it is, they are Republican. If it comes down to the Supreme Court voting on the election, it is highly likely that President Trump will be reelected because the Supreme court will be predominantly Republican. I still think Barret will get sworn in before election day, but we will shortly see what happens with that. Presidential elections are all about the people of the country choosing the President, not the Supreme Court. I think we should be allowed to vote in person because it would ensure that no fraud is taking place. It is very easy for there to be fraud and corruption with mail in ballots. If it comes down to the Supreme Court voting on the matter, Trump will most likely get the votes. He has already appointed two justices in his term, making Amy Comey Barret his third appointee.

  6. The 2020 presidential election seems to stand out amongst many of our previous elections for a myriad of reasons. First off, both candidates are vastly criticized and hated by the opposing party even more than an opposing candidate usually would. Secondly, with the recent death of justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the vacant seat on the supreme court needs to be filled and will decide which way the court will lean on numerous major court decisions. President Trump has announced that his nomination will be Amy Coney Barrett, who has a very conservative past and has spoken out against abortion and the affordable care act. Many don’t believe the seat should be voted on until the next election, but majority leader Mitch McConnell insists that even though 2008 went differently Trump will be able to submit his nomination prior to the election. The final major reason this election feels so different is evidently because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With many unable or fearful to go vote, the topic of mail-in voting has been a hot topic of discussion and has been questioned openly by the president. The president has urged concerns that he believes the mail-in voting system is flawed and could be easily manipulated, which has many fearful that if he loses the election he and his base will not go out easily. While it’s crucial to make sure every persons vote counts, staying safe from the virus should be the top priority for everyone at potential risk. With the character of the nominees, the death of justice Ginsburg, and the COVID-19 pandemic limiting in-person voting capabilities, the 2020 election seems as important and chaotic of an election as we have seen in a very long time.

  7. This upcoming presidential election is similar to no other previous election. The two candidates present themselves as the best decision, painting the opposition to be clearly in the wrong; the two candidates are polar opposites, like black and white. The SCOTUStalk podcast explains that, similar to the Bush v. Gore presidential election in 2000, the Supreme Court may have to step in and vote for the next president. Currently, Trump is trying to have Amy Coney Barrett sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. By doing so, there will be a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, thus increasing the likelihood of Trump being reelected.

    The Purcell Principle was interesting to learn about from the SCOTUStalk podcast. Essentially, the Purcell Principle states that the rules of an election should not be changed during the period in which an election is taking place. This principle exists so that rules pertaining to voting cannot be changed to disrupt the process during an election. Rules being changed with short notice has the potential of confusing voters, which can result in a significant quantity of votes not being counted and will consequently skew the election in a candidate’s favor.

    Currently, with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the limitation of in-person voting capabilities, a lot of people are worried that the upcoming election may be open to fraud and will be manipulated. This presidential election is extremely chaotic, so it is best that everyone pays close attention to potential disruptions in the voting process.

  8. This podcast episode from SCOTUStalk was very informative on the possibilities of the Supreme Court being the deciding voice of the upcoming presidential election. 2020 surely has been one of the most unprecedented years in our recent history. With an election occurring on top of the current events of our world, there are many uncertain factors that we face. This podcast highlighted the great chance that we could see another Bush v. Gore scenario arise from the election. With voting fraud being so widely talked about by the Trump administration because of the great reliance on mail-in ballots this year, Americans everywhere are already uncertain if they should cast their vote. The heightened outcome of this election also plays an important role, especially because both the Republicans and Democrats are treating this election as if it is right vs. wrong, rather than Trump vs. Biden.

    The discussion about the Purcell Principle was also very interesting. In short, the principle requires that the courts should not change their election rules too close to an election as to not confuse voters or disrupt the election process. Any change in rules would deter many voters from casting their vote because they may feel the system is unsecure. However, with the current controversy over whether or not Amy Coney Barrett should be nominated before the election has most likely deterred many voters already. Discrepancies in any situation would make several people worry about the legitimacy of rulings. With a controversy surrounding a major presidential election, now is not the right time to be arguing for or against a larger Republican majority on the Supreme Court. If the Court had to issue a decision on the 2020 election, there would be a possibility of a 4-4 tie. However, with there still being a majority in the 8 current Justices it is unlikely that outcome would occur. Ultimately, voters need to focus on the changes they want to see in our nation rather than the political banter between parties that overshadows many important ideas. There is no way to avoid another Bush v. Gore situation, but Americans can all agree that they would not be surprised to see yet another unpredictable event occur in the 2020 presidential election.

  9. Listening to this discussion that was posted merely four days before Justice Ruth Bade Ginsburg’s passing is somewhat surreal. The state of the Supreme Court is now at the mercy of the President’s decision whether to fill the seat before or after the election could change the entire dynamic of the Supreme Court rulings. Prior to her passing, we had somewhat of a fighting chance with her strong voice in Court decisions. Now that there is an open seat, it is scary to think of what decisions may or may not be overturned with a new Supreme Court Justice.
    The current presidential election is one that will be talked about for decades to come. Trump is pushing to confirm attorney Amy Coney Barrett at a time in which he should be focusing not only on the current election but also the COVID-19 pandemic that is still heavily affecting the nation. The challenge becomes what he values most at the moment. While filling the Supreme Court is a huge decision to make for a life term, right now the stake of the American people’s well-being in both a physical and political sense hangs in the balance of who is elected as President of the United States. Even now while the President is recovering from COVID-19 himself, his focus seems sporadic in terms of what he should be making decisions on. By focusing on filling the Supreme Court seat, I believe he is showing the American people that his priority is to make sure that he has someone in his corner no matter what the outcome of the election is. Amy Coney Barrett will tip the balance of the Supreme Court towards the conservatism that he favors, benefiting mainly his own party’s beliefs.
    Thus far, the election has been quite messy and not at all forward facing. The men and women that run this country must realize that the lives of all American people are in the balance through this election. Therefore, it is important that everyone who can vote, votes. As American citizens it is not only our right but also our responsibility to have our voices be heard.

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