Ruby Lenora casts her personal vote on her 73rd birthday at a polling station in Washington Park at the Milwaukee Public Library in Milwaukee on the first day of the personal vote in Wisconsin, the United States, on October 20, 2020.
Bing Guan | Reuters
The Supreme Court voted 5-3 Monday night against Democrats pushing to extend the deadline for postal ballot counting in Wisconsin by six days to give the state more time to deal with the postal ballot spike caused by Covid to deal with -19 pandemic.
The decision announced in a resolution was made eight days before election day. Wisconsin is a key battlefield state in the battle between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden. As a result of the move of the Supreme Court, the ballot papers must be submitted by 8 p.m. to be counted on November 3rd.
The court's eight judges were split on party-political lines, with the court's three Democratic candidates disagreeing. The decision, taken amid a spate of election-related disputes en route to the judges, was made public when the Senate upheld Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Supreme Court by 52 votes to 48. Barrett's endorsement gives the Conservatives a 6-3 majority.
The Supreme Court order followed a ruling last month by District Court Judge William Conley extending the deadline for the state's postal vote count on a lawsuit brought by the Democratic National Committee and its allies. Conley pointed to the unusually high number of postal ballot papers and delays in the United States Postal Service.
A similar 6-day extension scheduled for the April election in Wisconsin resulted in 80,000 ballots being counted that would otherwise have been disqualified, or 5% of the total ballot, according to the Wisconsin Electoral Commission.
Trump, who lags Biden by about five percentage points in state polls, won the state in 2016 with just 23,000 votes against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Covid-19 cases are at record levels nationwide, with Wisconsin being one of the hardest hit trouble spots.
A panel of the US 7th appellate court blocked Conley's decision in early October. The Democrats appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court's decision, but the judges refused.
Judge Neil Gorsuch, who wrote for himself and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, wrote that he opposed the extension because the constitution allows elected officials, not judges, to establish electoral rules. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were both appointed by Trump.
"Legislators can be held accountable by people for the rules they write or don't write. Ordinarily judges cannot," wrote Gorsuch. "Legislation makes politics and brings the collective wisdom of the whole people to use when it does so, while the courts only pass judgment on a single person or a handful."
Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the court's three Liberals earlier this month to allow Pennsylvania to count ballots received after election day, wrote separately to distinguish the cases.
"Different laws and precedents govern these two situations and, in those particular circumstances, require that we allow electoral rules to be changed in Pennsylvania but not in Wisconsin," wrote Roberts.
Judge Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent shared by her liberal co-judges Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor that the majority decision "deprives citizens of their rights by depriving them of their constitutionally guaranteed voting rights".
"With the court refusing to reinstate the district court injunction, Wisconsin will throw away thousands of timely and timely postal ballot papers," Kagan wrote.
Kagan said the decision "is not alone". In other recent cases, she wrote, the court has also made it difficult for people to safely cast ballots.
"As the COVID pandemic rages, the court has not adequately protected the nation's voters," she wrote.
Kavanaugh, in his own consent, said that he recognized Covid-19 was a serious problem, but "You need deadlines to hold elections – there is simply no desire to bypass or circumvent this fundamental issue. And Wisconsin's deadline is the same in 30 other states and is in all circumstances a reasonable time. "
"Moving a deadline would not prevent ballots from arriving after the newly minted deadline, and moving the first base would not mean tighter games," he added.