The Supreme Court: A complex front

By Conor Kelly (TheLorian)

With the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barret, it increasingly clear that the Supreme Court will shift to the Right. With a progressively tense election season and the shadow of contested results raising over the American people, the highest court in America takes on significance it hasn’t seen since Bush v. Gore. Already, cases are being decided that could decide whether or not the Trump Administration comes to an end. I could try to state my position here, but as this is an ever-changing set of events, I can only endeavor to contextualize these issues for my audience. As such, this article will not seek to make any overarching argument insofar as persuasion goes, but my voice will remain present within it. My hope is that once this article is released, the results of the election will at least have some context behind them.           

Last Thursday, Oct. 28, Democrats won a significant electoral victory through Supreme Court, as the court had refused to remove extensions for mail-in-ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina that the states’ GOP had requested, as reported by the Washington Post. In essence, North Carolina and Pennsylvania sought to expand the time by which they could accept mail-in-ballots due to a rise in mail-in-ballots, something that the GOP for both states objected to. However, when it comes to Pennsylvania, it was the state Supreme Court that permitted such an extension, not the legislature. The court did this, citing the “Free and Equal Protections,” clause of Pennsylvania’s Constitution, arguing that the election needed to be conducted in a manner that ensured “to the greatest degree possible, a voter’s right to equal participation in the electoral process.” It was not the first time that the Pennsylvania Republicans had their requests for a strict ballot deadline, but that was before Barrett was appointed to the court. Hence the reason for a second decision. Unfortunately for the GOP, she would not be able to contribute to the court in time.

This is particularly important because Pennsylvania could be the key to Trump’s success or defeat. It has twenty electoral votes, making it a critical state to win in any election, slightly more than North Carolina’s fifteen votes. Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 with 48.2 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 47.5 percent. Though, he now trails Biden and has been consistently trailing through the month, according to FiveThirtyEight. In fact, the President seems to have been provoked by the recent decision, as he tweeted about the court’s decision, saying, “If Sleepy Joe Biden is actually elected President, the 4 justices (plus 1) that helped make such a ridiculous win possible,” portraying any loss as the result of malfeasance. Whatever the case may be, the court could revisit the case after Nov. 3, but for now, it appears that Pennsylvania, like North Carolina’s approach to the election puts Biden in a slightly favorable position.  

However, there is one state that has not been given the same treatment that Pennsylvania and North Carolina received: Wisconsin. Wisconsin, much like the other two states were faced with questioned about the powers of the legislature and the state courts. How in this instant, the Supreme Court ruled that the state courts should defer to the legislature. In doing so, Wisconsin will have a different deadline for ballots to be turned in than Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Though, it is unlikely to help Trump in the state, as it only has ten electoral votes. More than that, Biden has an 8.6 point lead on Trump despite the incumbent taking the state in 2016.

Ultimately, the states that Trump really needs to win, mainly Pennsylvania, are not going the way that his campaign wants. And it was all due to eight people appointed by multiple administrations, including the current one. Everything is political, and the Supreme Court’s current decisions makes that all too clear.




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Conor J. Kelly was the Opinion Editor for the Lorian and a prolific staff writer. He graduated from Loras College in April of 2021 and is now pursuing his master's in political science at the University of Illinois, Springfield. You can find his new work on The Progressive American newsletter.

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