Show an ad over header. AMP

How the Supreme Court could decide the election

The Supreme Court isn't just one of the most pressing issues in the presidential race — the justices may also have to decide parts of the election itself.

Why it matters: Important election-related lawsuits are already making their way to the court. And close results in swing states, with disputes over absentee ballots, set up the potential for another Bush v. Gore scenario, election experts say.

2020 could be the perfect storm, with states rushing to prepare for mass vote-by-mail operations for the first time, dozens of last-minute changes to state election rules, tight races in several swing states, a strong likelihood of protracted vote-counting, and two candidates who are already ready to fight it out in court.

  • "Uncertainty breeds litigation," said Edward Foley, an election law expert who directs the election program at Ohio State University. The more the litigation and the greater the political will to win, the more likely cases will end up before the Supreme Court, he added.

What we're watching: The court could play a big role even if it doesn't end up with a big post-election case like Bush v. Gore. Election-related cases are already working their way up toward the high court.

  • Pennsylvania Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to review a ruling that gave voters an extra three days to return their ballots in the state, for example.
  • Even the court's inaction can have real-world consequences — in July, the justices declined to get involved in the dispute over restoring felons' voting rights in Florida. That left rules in place that make it harder for those people to register.

Between the lines: All of this tension is heightened by the vacancy on the court and the prospect that President Trump may be able to fill that seat before the election.

  • If the court were to hear a big election-related case without a ninth justice in place, there'd be at least the possibility of a 4-4 tie.
  • When that happens in normal cases, the ruling from the court below stands, but no precedent is set — the same case can come back to the Supreme Court for a proper decision later. But that would be an untenable situation for an election, and Chief Justice John Roberts would surely do everything in his power to avoid it.
  • A court with three Trump nominees ultimately deciding the fate of Trump's reelection could have dire implications for public trust in the court. But a ninth justice may not be the deciding vote.
  • Just a few months ago, the court blocked efforts to extend absentee voting in the Wisconsin primary. Between that ruling, the decision not to intervene in Florida and striking down the core of the Voting Rights Act in 2012, voting-rights advocates had a pretty hard time at the high court even with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the bench.

The bottom line: Some experts argue that the odds of a close enough race in a decisive state, with sufficient grounds to settle it through litigation, are still low.

  • But "what is most likely to save us from a Twitterized Bush v. Gore 2.0 and possible post-election violence in November is neither an honest election system nor counter speech to combat election misinformation," election expert Rick Hasen writes in a recent report. It's luck.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar near deal to end standoff, sources say

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close to a deal to end the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf following U.S.-mediated reconciliation talks this week, sources familiar with the talks tell me.

Why it matters: Restoring relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would bring a sense of stability back to the Gulf after a 3.5 year standoff. It could also notch a last-minute achievement for the Trump administration before Jan. 20.

Keep reading... Show less

President of Soros foundation leaves amid speculation of potential Biden role

Patrick Gaspard, who served as ambassador to South Africa under President Barack Obama, is stepping down as president of George Soros' Open Society Foundations, fueling speculation that he'll join the Biden administration, potentially as Labor secretary.

What to know: Before his stint as ambassador, Gaspard was Obama's political director in the White House, drawing upon his experience in the labor movement to advance Obama's legislative agenda on health care and financial services reform.

Keep reading... Show less

House passes bill to decriminalize marijuana

The House on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: The Washington Post describes the bill as a "landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs," which has disproportionately affected people of color.

Keep reading... Show less

Clean trucks are paving the road to the electric vehicle era

The electric vehicle revolution is underway, led by the un-sexiest of plug-in models: the commercial truck.

Why it matters: Growing demand for cleaner trucks means 2021 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles — just not the kind you might have expected.

Keep reading... Show less

Over 13 million people are receiving pandemic unemployment assistance expiring on Dec. 26

Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is falling but remains remarkably high three weeks before pandemic assistance programs are set to expire. More than 1 million people a week are still filing for initial jobless claims, including nearly 300,000 applying for pandemic assistance.

By the numbers: As of Nov. 14, 20.2 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits of some kind, including more than 13.4 million on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs that were created as part of the CARES Act and end on Dec. 26.

Keep reading... Show less

The top candidates Biden is considering for key energy and climate roles

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged President-elect Joe Biden to nominate Mary Nichols, chair of California's air pollution regulator, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The reported push by Schumer could boost Nichol's chances of leading an agency that will play a pivotal role in Biden's vow to enact aggressive new climate policies — especially because the plan is likely to rest heavily on executive actions.

Keep reading... Show less

U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as rate of recovery slows

Axios Visuals. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% from 6.9%, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The labor market continues to recover even as coronavirus cases surge— though it's still millions of jobs short of the pre-pandemic level. The problem is that the rate of recovery is slowing significantly.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot"

The government's top infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci said Friday that he "absolutely" will accept the offer from President-elect Joe Biden to serve as his chief medical officer, telling NBC's "Today" that he said yes "right on the spot."

Why it matters: President Trump had a contentious relationship with Fauci, who has been forced during the pandemic to correct many of the president's false claims about the coronavirus. Biden, meanwhile, has emphasized the importance of "listening to the scientists" throughout his campaign and transition.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories