Several weeks ago, a federal district judge ruled that Wisconsin law violated the Constitution. It found a lower court’s ruling requiring that absentee votes be in no later than election day to be burdensome, especially during a pandemic. The argument is that with massive mail-in voting, the postal service may not meet the delivery demand, disenfranchising many absentee voters.
The Supreme Court, in a vote of 5 to 3, sided with the lower court and against the federal district judge, the Democrat Party, and other progressive groups. Basically, the plaintiffs wanted election day extended by six days. The majority opinion expressed that “elections must end sometime, a single deadline supplies clear notice, and requiring ballots be in by election day puts all voters on the same footing.”
Understandably, allowances should be made for those unable to vote in person during a pandemic. Also, absentee ballots should be available to any person designated as a high-risk health concern. What is not reasonable is to extend a voting deadline by six days, especially in a battleground state. Most everyone considered high risk a week before the November 3rd election has been so since Covid-19 began to spread in the United States and has had a reasonable time to request, receive, vote and return a ballot.
According to NPR, this summer’s primary elections were an ominous warning that there were problems with massive mail-in ballots. Some were not signed correctly, while others were mailed too late. Thousands of ballots were rejected and votes denied; however, this really isn’t an excuse to extend voting deadlines. When absentee ballot instructions are not followed, or voters do not call for clarification if voting procedures are unclear, they have forfeited their vote. Voters must also factor in the time needed to return a ballot by mail, just as those voting in person should plan for long lines and long wait times needed for social distancing.
This case is not the first to be rushed before the Supreme Court. In an October 19th split (tied) ruling, a similar case involved Pennsylvania and a three-day extension for mail-in ballots. The Republicans argued to stop this extension and were denied; however, it has returned to the court appealing that justices hear the merits of the case before November 3rd.
To ensure a fair November election, it is crucial to have a full-court hearing of all voting concerns and returning opinions that uphold the Constitution. With the October 26th confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, nine justices will decide these crucial issues and others that may arise due to ballot inconsistencies or a challenged election result.