David Gans on the Purcell Principle in Slate


In a string of unsigned, unexplained orders this summer, the Supreme Court has repeatedly shown that it will not protect the right to vote during an election year. The court has considered emergency motions in cases challenging voting or ballot access restrictions in AlabamaFloridaIdahoOregon, and Texas. In each case, the court sided with the state, prompting Justice Sonia Sotomayor to take the court to task for its pattern of repeatedly “condoning disenfranchisement” and “forbid[ding] courts [from] mak[ing] voting safer during a pandemic.” The exception that proves the rule was a case from Rhode Island in which the court refused to disturb a settlement in which the state agreed not to enforce the restriction in question. The upshot is that Purcell has become an inflexible rule that sanctions voter suppression and prevents courts from playing their historic role in protecting constitutional rights.


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