August 20, 2020 14 minute to read ∙ 3200 words

Voting in an Era of Crisis

By Jason A. Abel

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Reprinted with permission from Human Rights, Volume 45, Number 3, 2020, at 2-5. ©2020 by the American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.

"The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic. Under the District Court’s order, they would be able to do so. Even if they receive their absentee ballot in the days immediately following election day, they could return it. With the majority’s stay in place, that will not be possible. Either they will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety. Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own. That is a matter of utmost importance—to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin’s citizens, the integrity of the State’s election process, and in this most extraordinary time, the health of the Nation.” —Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting in RNC v. DNC, 589 U.S. ___ (2020) (Slip Op. at 6)
"In the midst of this crisis, we must also remember to protect the foundation of our democracy by ensuring that every eligible American can safely cast a ballot in the upcoming elections. The coronavirus should not stop our citizens from casting their ballots.” —Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), Washington Post, March 16, 2020

The legal wrangling over whether—and how—to conduct the April 7, 2020, election in Wisconsin underscores a deeper battle shaping up for November’s general election, specifically how the franchise can be guaranteed in an era of a crisis. The deadly pandemic sweeping the globe has killed over 100,000 people in the United States (and over 240,000 globally) as of the beginning of June, required unprecedented levels of self-quarantine, plunged global markets, and created uncertainly and fear. There is still time, however, to prevent COVID-19 from claiming another victim: our American democracy.

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