Republican National Committee v. Democratic National Committee

140 S.Ct. 1205 (2020)

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Republican National Committee v. Democratic National Committee

United States Supreme Court
140 S.Ct. 1205 (2020)

Facts

The State of Wisconsin (defendant) was scheduled to hold a primary election on April 7, 2020. Absentee ballots cast in the election were due to election officials by April 7. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin had experienced a surge in absentee-ballot requests. Although the state had already sent 1.2 million absentee ballots, state election officials faced a significant backlog, and thousands of requested ballots had not been mailed to voters. Wisconsin’s Democratic governor wanted to postpone the primary due to peaking COVID-19 cases and asked the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature to postpone the primary, but the legislature refused. The governor then unilaterally postponed the primary. The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the governor could not postpone the primary and ordered the election to proceed as scheduled. A group of Wisconsin voters, community organizations, and the Democratic National Committee (collectively, the DNC) (plaintiffs) sued Wisconsin election officials (defendants) in federal district court, seeking changes to the primary in light of COVID-19. On April 2, the district court ordered Wisconsin to treat as valid all absentee ballots received on or before April 13—six days after election day. The district court also ordered that absentee ballots postmarked after April 7 should be treated as valid as long as they were received by April 13. The DNC had not sought that relief from the court in its original motion papers. The district court subsequently issued an order suppressing public release of any election results until April 13. Wisconsin, joined by the Republican National Committee (RNC) (defendant), appealed to the Seventh Circuit, but the court left the district court’s order in place. Wisconsin and the RNC asked the United States Supreme Court to stay the district court’s order regarding absentee ballots postmarked after election day. The Supreme Court ruled on the stay application one day before the election.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

Dissent (Ginsburg, J.)

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