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Supreme Court topples Lower Court Rulings on South Carolina’s Absent Vote Claim of Witnesses

On October 5, 2020, Supreme Court stayed South Carolina Federal District Court September 18, 2020 order ordered the South Carolina State Election Commission (“SCEC”) to enforce the state’s witness requirement for absentee ballots. Mentioned about the witness request South Carolina Law ask someone else to witness the absent voter’s signature on the absentee ballot envelope for the November 2020 general election. Law require The witness signs the absentee ballot envelope and provides that noncompliant absentee ballots “do not count”. However, the order of the Supreme Court granted a narrow exception is to ballots if they are dropped prior to the issuance of this stay and are “received within two days” of the date of the order.

It would be helpful if a majority of the Courts explained the plausible reasons behind its order, claiming that it overturned both the district court and the Fourth Court, which already refuse keep the preliminary county court order when they consider this matter. The only rationale in the opinion of the Court is provided by Justice Kavanaugh, who is agree with a majority based on “two alternative and independent reasons.” However, as outlined below, Kavanaugh’s reason alone does not seem to provide the full reason for permitting a stay.

Kavanaugh’s first reason is that the district court’s preliminary order has contradictory the principle that “the State legislature’s decision to uphold or change the election rules for the common resolution of COVID – 19” will not be subject to the “unelected federal judiciary”, This agency lacks the foundation, capacity and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the public. Kavanaugh’s description of district court as the South Carolina legislature’s second guess is correct because of the South Carolina General Assembly has made changes to its election laws by passing a bill that would allow all South Carolina voters to vote by absentee ballot for the general election and because the General Assembly decided, after arguing in both the House and Senate, removes the witness request. However, the role of federal courts is the “second guess” of the State legislature as those courts are defending constitutional rights. Hence, just because the district court order mentioned here is the second guessing the legislature, that doesn’t mean that the order is necessarily unconstitutional. In this case, the district court Find that “Witness Requirement, when coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. . . involves a deliberate unconstitutional burden on the fundamental right to vote, ”and therefore has an obligation to defend this right.

By Kavanaugh the second reason Did the district court disregard a derived rule Purcell v. Gonzalez, US 1 549 (2006), that “normally, federal courts must not change state election rules for the period close to an election.” Both the district courts and the Four Palaces were pensive. consider this principle, but concludes that the election status during the pandemic is that no witness requirement is enforced for the absentee ballot because all South Carolina voters are allowed to vote by absentee without having to comply. witness requirements in the June primary election. Hence, the fourth circuit reasoning that “keeping the order too close to election day will cause confusion for a mass of voters and other issues that the Supreme Court has warned against Purcell v. Gonzalez, “Because there is a” witness request “will be able to … confuse and deter voters’, who, based on the rules of the June primary election, expect a reasonable witness requirement for the November general election. “As a result, both Kavanaugh and the lower courts appear to be using Purcell different. Unfortunately, however, Kavanaugh did not mention how the lower courts were dealt with Purcell or explain why the approach they took based on pandemic anomalous events has defied Purcell rule.

Perhaps what convinces the Court is the SCEC’s argument in appealing that the witness request did not actually place a significant burden on the plaintiff. The district court found that the requirement of witnesses burdens the ability of certain voters to exercise their right to vote, such as those living alone and at high risk of COVID-19. However, according to SCEC, most of the plaintiffs in this case “gave no evidence that they lived alone and never interacted with other people,” and two of them “even said they wanted to interact. more with voters (by collecting their absentee ballots). ” Importantly, SCEC declare which the only real living alone plaintiff made, three days after the district court’s September 18, 2020 order, “a televised interview of the case is side by side with the eldest son. her “and that”[i]If she can sit next to her son (who is a state legislator) during a TV interview, then she can also sit next to her son while he witnesses the absent ballot. her face. Therefore, while the requirement of witness can be seen as a burden of the right of voters to live alone and have limited interaction with others, these SCEC statements may have influenced the Court. judgment when concluding that the requirement – as applied to the plaintiff in this case – may not really be all that burdensome.



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