Let’s take just a moment at the start today, to review what happened at the Supreme Court.
A case brought by a Pennsylvania Republican legislator was dismissed by the Court, without comment, and without any Justices noting dissensions. This is not unusual. And it wasn’t unexpected. Except that it’s the first case related to the election that made it to the Court, and you never know about anything for sure in court until it happens.
When the Supreme Court is asked to intervene on an expedited basis, as it was here, the application for an injunction is assigned to a single Justice, on a rotating basis, based on the region in the country from which it originates. In this case, Justice Alito, to whom the motion was automatically assigned, decided to share it with the rest of the court. And he and the rest of the court, decided it was not worthy of further action. It is also not unusual that none of the Justices gave any reason and none dissented.
It is very important though. Because even if the Court had turned the Pennsylvania motion down, had one or two Justices jumped on board, a very different message might’ve been sent. Now, there are still other cases pending before the Supreme Court. So technically this part of it still isn’t over. At the same time, this is also a particularly significant milestone.
So here’s how we think this all wraps in:
This election really drove something home for the Republican party: if you make it easier for people to vote, more people will vote. Especially if you let them vote by mail. So now they will work hard to make that less easy.
And the election result, and even the Supreme Court’s ruling are going to be taken as signals by Republican legislatures across the country to use Trump’s manufactured voting controversy to implement some very real changes to voting processes, which won’t make things easier for voters. And they’ll probably even find a lot of excuses to roll a lot of things back. Cheered on by the Trump faithful. This could, in fact, ultimately help enable candidates who feel some Republicans currently in office were insufficiently loyal to Trump challenge them, but we’ll have to see how strongly that sentiment carries through the next several years.
Republicans already know if more people vote, in most instances, there’s less of a chance their party will win. In a way, they were counting on Trump’s coattails to carry them through this election season anyway, because they kind of had to loosen things up a little with COVID-19 and all. And in a way they did: Republicans are in pretty good shape in terms of retaining their dominance in state legislatures, and that’s who decides how people get to vote. And that’s who also will decide how congressional districts will get divided up and shaped based on the 2020 census.
In fact, quite a few big states now have Democratic Governors and Republican legislatures, including many of the swing states we’ve been talking about in recent weeks: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. Why? Because of gerrymandering that favors Republicans on county or voting-district levels, but does not give them the same advantage in statewide races.
In fact, the Pennsylvania law that Republicans were challenging at the Supreme Court, is a law Pennsylvania Republicans passed themselves. As we mentioned yesterday, it was featured prominently on the “Pennsylvania Senate Republicans” home page under the header: “2019–2020 Senate Legislative Accomplishments”.
And it had nothing to do with COVID-19; they passed it long before. Wanna bet this year they work to reverse it though? And make no-questions-asked mail-in voting harder in Pennsylvania?
And in a lot of other states too. And you can forget about expanding things like same-day registration, and making Election Day a national holiday.
And start thinking more about ever stricter voter-ID laws, and more restrictive absentee ballots.
The poster child for this movement will almost certainly be Texas, whose Republican leadership did absolutely nothing to make it easier for people to vote during COVID-19, and fought Texas Democrats’ attempts to do so all the way to the Supreme Court. That included refusing to let people use the threat of contracting the virus as an excuse to get an absentee ballot, and never ever even entertained the concept of a no-excuse absentee ballot. And Trump won comfortably in Texas, although not by a huge enough margin that if they had changed things up, it mightn’t have made a difference.
And that’s clearly something the Republicans who currently run the state are very proud of, in fact Texas lawmakers are out there right now trumpeting their “superiority” in this regard. And their superiority dance extends to suing to try to get other states’ elections results overturned essentially for running insufficiently restrictive elections in the same way they did. So their ridiculous suit that they now are trying to bring directly to the Supreme Court actually kind of doubles as just a brag. And even if they don’t prevail, it’ll still spread their election gospel loud and clear: don’t make it easier to vote in this country; don’t even give an inch.