This is surely not SCOTUSblog, but let’s look at two significant court rulings from yesterday:
- The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court’s order that required the Census Bureau to continue its count through the original deadline of October 31. In August, the Trump Administration said they were moving the deadline back to September 30, ostensibly to allow additional time to finish the calculations and reporting that is required to be sent to Congress by the end of the year.
- A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit of Appeals ruled that Texas is within the law to allow only one ballot drop-off location per county for the upcoming election. Some counties wanted to set up additional drop-off points for ballots but Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a limit of one location per county.
In both cases, Republicans claimed that their position was the prudent one, noting the deadline crunch in the census case and ballot security issues in the drop-off location case. Opponents claimed that Republicans were trying to restrict the electoral power of minorities, particularly those of Hispanic heritage, by deliberately undercounting them in the census (which could result in states losing seats in Congress, among other issues) and making it more difficult for them to cast their votes.
Those are possible outcomes, but I find the Republicans’ position to be both fatuous and rather convenient. Now they’re worried about following the law to the letter after supporting the “what the hell” approach of the president and his cronies for nearly four years?
However, I think their efforts could backfire on them. Here’s why:
- The 2020 Census was largely conducted online. Residents got reminders to go online and complete the census by email, postal mail, television ads, and online ads. The door-to-door canvassing effort is intended to get the information from people who haven’t already done their civic duty online. While many older Americans are pretty savvy about their smart phones and tablets, there are still a lot who aren’t (or who are still carrying around a flip phone with no browser, like my dad). On the other hand, younger Americans – regardless of ethnicity or race – have few problems with logging onto a website and giving personal information. Who do you think is more likely to be undercounted if the Census Bureau cuts their efforts short on Thursday, as they’ve said they will? (Also, why would mostly red states like Texas and Arizona want Hispanics to be undercounted? Congressional seats are allocated by total population, not just white people.)
- The single drop-off point for ballots is inconvenient. But again, it depends on the motivation of the person who wants to have their ballot counted. I wouldn’t count on older Americans, especially those who support the president for re-election, going out of their way to drop off their ballots. I know that’s the conventional wisdom, but if they even partially believe recent polling that shows Biden ten or more points up nationally, they may choose to stay home and not bother dropping off their ballots. It will depend on whether younger voters, or frankly anyone who wants Trump out of office, are more motivated to travel to the single drop-off points to cast their ballots.
Keep in mind, also, that the president has repeatedly disparaged mail-in voting (despite doing so himself). His followers would seem to be much less likely to have chosen to request mail-in ballots, then. So if they want to vote, it will be in person, and if the lines are long, they may again be discouraged from standing around for an hour or two to vote.
In any case, it comes down to who’s actually motivated to participate in this election. There’s plenty of reasons to vote regardless of which candidate you favor. But who wants it more?