DNC v. Wisconsin State Legislature

Nos. 20A64, 20A65, 20A66 (S. Ct.) | Closed

The Democratic National Party, along with several other political organizations that were consolidated at the District Court level, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an October 8 Seventh Circuit Court’s ruling that enforced the long-standing receive-by deadline of election night, November 3, 2020.

In September of 2020, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that the deadline for returning absentee ballots should be extended in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and that Wisconsin’s State Legislature violated the Constitution by enforcing the state law-imposed election day deadline. However, the Seventh Circuit stayed that order, reasoning that it was not within the court’s power to change election rules so close to the date of an election. The Democratic National Committee and Democratic Party of Wisconsin asked the Supreme Court to vacate the Seventh Circuit’s stay, but the Court denied their application by a 5-3 vote.

Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh each wrote a separate concurrence stressing the necessity for election deadlines, and the importance of adherence to Constitutionally appropriate methods of administrating elections. Gorsuch noted:

“No one doubts that conducting a national election amid a pandemic poses serious challenges. But none of that means individual judges may improvise with their own election rules in place of those the people’s representatives have adopted.”

Justice Kagan wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that denying the DNC’s application to vacate the stay would result in the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, but the majority maintained that for a federal judge to make changes to a state’s election law rather than the state legislature constitutes inappropriate federal intrusion.


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U.S. Supreme Court