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Budowsky: SCOTUS mocks COVID-19 warnings in Wisconsin

Budowsky: SCOTUS mocks COVID-19 warnings in Wisconsin
© UPI

The Supreme Court decision Monday that prohibits extending absentee balloting in the Wisconsin primary mocks the strong advice of experts urgently trying to defeat the death caused by COVID-19 by promoting social distancing. This dastardly decision forces Wisconsinites to choose between risking their death or surrendering their right to vote. It is the latest example of Republican Supreme Court justices employing party-line votes to support Republican politicians in decisions that undermine our democracy.

I pray that no citizen of Wisconsin will become ill, or die, because five Republican Supreme Court justices force them to congregate in long lines in violation of social distancing guidelines or surrender their right to vote.

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, protecting the lives of his constituents, sought to postpone the primary. Partisan Republicans in Wisconsin, putting their political interest ahead of the lives of their constituents, thwarted this.

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Evers, protecting the lives and democratic rights of his constituents of all parties, sought to extend the deadline for absentee ballots. The five Republican justices of the Supreme Court, in a party-line vote, sided with Republican politicians, mocked COVID-19 warnings and ruled that extending the deadline for absentee ballots cannot happen.

Chief Justice John Roberts, the tie-breaking vote in this dastardly decision, should be asked and should answer these questions:

Mr. Chief Justice, do you understand that the COVID-19 virus is killing countless citizens across the nation and around the world? Are you aware that leading experts on pandemic diseases are pleading with citizens to avoid long lines and large groups? Mr. Chief Justice, you are a learned and brilliant man, how do you not understand that your decision — literally — endangers the lives of some who vote in person, especially senior citizens and minority voters?

The five Republican justices of the Supreme Court have put citizens of Wisconsin in the horrifying position of voting in person, which creates real risks of death or disease, or surrendering their right to vote to partisan Republicans in Wisconsin and Republican Supreme Court justices in Washington.

Have they no shame?

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This decision, sadly and outrageously, parallels similar Supreme Court decisions during the Roberts tenure on the court, usually through party-line votes, in cases involving the integrity of elections, in which Republican Supreme Court justices side with Republican politicians in Washington and states that undermine core principles of American democracy.

In the Citizens United case, Republican justices voted to essentially allow the wealthiest Americans to make a bold bid to dominate our democracy through unlimited, secret and undisclosed political donations.

In cases involving voting rights, the Republican justices on the court voted to weaken the Voting Rights Act, placing those justices in collusion with partisan Republicans suppressing voter turnout in state after state, which was widely known and widely reported.

In cases involving partisan gerrymandering, the Republican justices on the court united to uphold partisan Republican politicians in state after state who grotesquely distort democracy by fixing elections through redrawing districts for congressional and state legislative seats.

I have tried in several columns to be fair and objective toward Chief Justice Roberts, hoping he would rise to the occasion of contemporary history. But now he breaks the tie in the Wisconsin case in a decision that literally endangers the lives of voters, or forces voters to surrender their right to vote to protect their health, safety and lives.

He cast this vote after Citizens United. After weakening the Voting Rights Act. After supporting partisan gerrymandering. After joining with other Republican justices in party-line votes, year after year, that undermine core values of our democracy.

It is unconscionable for the Supreme Court to force citizens to violate the critical social distancing advice meant to save their lives. It is time for a national debate about the composition and role of the court in a nation that deserves better than party-line votes that undermine our democracy and now, endanger our health.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.