Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Wisconsin Republicans Exploit Pandemic To Suppress Democratic Votes (And The Supreme Court Has Approved Their Tactics)

Mark Joseph Stein, Slate, April 6, 2020:
On Monday, by a 5–4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court approved one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern history. The court will nullify the votes of citizens who mailed in their ballots late ... because they did not receive ballots until after Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic. ...

Wisconsin has long been scheduled to hold an election on April 7. ... Thousands of poll workers have dropped out for fear of contracting the virus, forcing cities to shutter dozens of polling places. Milwaukee, for example, consolidated its polling locations from 182 to five, while Green Bay consolidated its polling locations from 31 to two. Gov. Tony Evers asked the Republican-controlled Legislature to postpone the election, but it refused. So he tried to delay it himself with an executive order on Monday. But the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court reinstated the election, thereby forcing voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote. ...

Wisconsin has been caught off guard by a surge in requests for absentee ballots. Election officials simply do not have time, resources, or staff to process all those requests. As a result, a large number of voters—at least tens of thousands—won't get their ballots until after Election Day. ... [L]ast Thursday, a federal district court ordered the state to extend the absentee ballot deadline. It directed officials to count votes mailed after Election Day so long as they were returned by April 13. A conservative appeals court upheld his decision.

Now the Supreme Court has reversed that order. It allowed Wisconsin to throw out ballots postmarked and received after Election Day, even if voters were entirely blameless for the delay. ... In an unsigned opinion, the majority ... criticized the district court for "fundamentally alter[ing] the nature of the election by permitting voting for six additional days after the election." And it insisted that the plaintiffs did not actually request that relief—which, as Ginsburg notes in her dissent, is simply false.

Ginsburg's dissent, joined by her three liberal colleagues, shredded every other aspect of the majority opinion as well. ...
The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic. ... Either they will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others' safety. Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own. That is a matter of utmost importance—to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin's citizens, the integrity of the State's election process, and in this most extraordinary time, the health of the Nation.
Unfortunately for the nation, Wisconsin Republicans decided that they would prefer to exploit the pandemic to suppress Democratic votes. Their state Supreme Court, dominated by partisan Republicans, allowed them to do so. And now the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the only protection in place to ensure that voters could still safely cast ballots even if the state fails to provide them expediently. This election looks increasingly like a sham tainted by partisan manipulation. And now the most powerful court in the nation has approved these tactics. An election that forces voters to choose between protecting their health and casting a ballot is not a free and fair election.

No comments: