Posted by Amy Howe on Wed Oct 21st 2020 10:07 pm
The Supreme Court on Wednesday night granted a request from Alabama electoral officials to allow them to ban roadside voting. The judges have put a federal district judge's order on hold that would have allowed counties to vote on the roadside while the state appeals to the U.S. District Court of Appeals and, if applicable, the Supreme Court. Wednesday's order means there is virtually no roadside voting for the upcoming November elections. Justice Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the state's request; She filed a dissent, which was followed by Judges Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
Alabama law does not prohibit or require a roadside vote. Alabama's Republican Secretary of State banned counties from using it that year. Wednesday's order came in a lawsuit filed by voters in Alabama in May to block (among other things) the secretary's ban on roadside voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. A federal district judge ordered the state to allow counties to hold roadside votes and concluded that the ban violates the Disabled Americans Act by putting voters with disabilities who are at greater risk of serious complications or death by the virus have asked person to cast their ballot and therefore increase their exposure to the virus.
After the 11th Circle temporarily retained other parts of the District Court's order but refused to freeze the part of the order that allowed a roadside vote, the state went to the Supreme Court. In an order with a paragraph on Wednesday evening, the judges put the district court's order on hold.
In her dissent, Sotomayor noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended roadside voting to help fight the spread of COVID-19. And election officials, she noted, do not "significantly deny that plaintiffs have disabilities, that COVID-19 is disproportionately fatal to these plaintiffs, and that traditional face-to-face polls significantly increase their risk of exposure". Instead, she wrote, they only claimed that plaintiffs can still vote by postal vote. Voting by mail is not the same thing as voting in person, however, Sotomayor suggested: Among other things, postal voting requires witnesses and a copy of the voter's photo ID, and the voter runs the risk of their ballot arriving late or being rejected.
Sotomayor presented the district court's order as a "modest" and "reasonable accommodation". It was not necessary for counties to vote at the roadside, she said. it only allows them to use it if they choose to. Sotomayor concluded with a quote from an elderly black man with asthma and Parkinson's who told the district court that “(S) o many of my (ancestors) even died to vote. And although I don't mind dying, I think we're over that – we're through that time. "With electoral officials in at least two counties" ready and willing to help vulnerable voters "by allowing roadside votes, Sotomayor wrote, should the Supreme Court" get out of the way. "
This article was originally published by Howe on the Court.
The judges allow Alabama to restore the roadside voting ban.
SCOTUSblog (October 21, 2020, 10:07 p.m.),