How RBG’s vacancy could affect decisions at the polls

Published: Sep. 19, 2020 at 6:52 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - An empty seat on the nation’s highest court could change the course of the campaign trail, with less than 50 days away from a presidential election.

“I think the fact that there’s a vacancy and that both sides will be ramping up their efforts around it will make this much more of an issue day in and day out,” Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette Law School Poll, said.

The expected change follows the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She died on Friday from complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. She was 87.

Franklin predicts the new Supreme Court vacancy could drive issues like abortion and discrimination to the forefront for the presidential candidates. The issues, Franklin says, are ongoing for the court, and the new justice could play a pivotal role in the decisions.

“I think the key point here is a new appointment from President Trump and from the Republican majority is likely to tilt the court in a more solidly conservative direction and make it harder for swing justices to alternate which side of controversies wins,” he said.

Howard Schweber, a political science professor who also teaches law at UW-Madison, described how he saw the late justice interpreting the law.

“Not only on issues involving women’s rights, [but] her dissenting opinions in the voting rights decision that stripped protections from minority voters in numerous jurisdictions. Her dissenting opinions in particular, rang with passion.”

He added, “It’d be unfair to her memory not to observe the one thought in everyone’s mind: her replacement might pursue a very different vision.”

Franklin also noted other key issues in the election, including the coronavirus, economy and Black Lives Matter. Whether the issue of the Supreme Court vacancy will overshadow them—Franklin said that remains to be seen.

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