UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan — Tuesday was the first day that Justice Amy Coney Barrett officially served on the U.S. Supreme Court.
It was also the day that the number of Americans who’d voted early or by absentee ballot surpassed 66 million. That’s more than a quarter of the entire national electorate, with a full week to go before Election Day.
Among people voting on Tuesday who spoke with PIX11 News, there was concern that a newly complete Supreme Court might not be fair and objective in elections cases. A legal expert who’s had to go to court himself regarding a voting dispute said that the court will be objective, but that political leanings can nonetheless influence their decisions.
The lines to vote at early voting precincts across New York have been long all week. At Lincoln Center on Tuesday, the line was five blocks long, and in the last block, the line went all the way around every corner.
“I am willing to wait as long as it takes,” voter Donna Thurgood said, even though poll workers had warned that the wait was three hours, at least.
Thurgood was among a variety of people waiting in the queue who said they were casting their ballots in order to help ensure that the election’s outcome is clear.
“I am a little bit worried about the Supreme Court,” said Jody Feldman, another Westside resident whose early voting precinct is at Lincoln Center. “I don’t think we’re going to know [the results] on Nov. 4.”
Eileen North was another Upper West Side voter who specifically said that she came in person to vote in order to help there be an indisputable outcome, one that won’t require the Supreme Court to weigh in.
“Does this answer your question?” North asked, as she pointed to her Ruth Bader Ginsburg t-shirt. It had two words emblazoned on it: I dissent.
On Monday, when there were still only eight official Supreme Court justices, the court ruled 5-3 that mail-in election ballots in Wisconsin could not be counted after Election Day, even if they were postmarked on Election Day.
That was a reversal from last April, when, in Wisconsin’s primaries, the court allowed ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted. 80,000 properly postmarked ballots that arrived late were allowed in. Under the new ruling on Monday, ballots like them would be disqualified in the current election.
Pres. Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by 23,000 votes.
Also, there are currently election cases pending before the court from North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Coney Barrett never said, in her confirmation hearings, that she would recuse herself from any election cases, in spite of the fact that Pres. Trump has expressed support for Barrett because she may have to rule on election outcomes.
Daniel Feldman, a professor of administrative law at John Jay College, and former New York State senator, has had a voting outcome dispute in one of his own elections end up before a state court. Feldman said that he trusts the court to be objective.
However, he added, a justice’s “judgement is, unfortunately, likely to be influenced by what you want to believe. And so if you come to the court with strong ideological or partisan views, I’m reasonably confident that you will try to suppress them, you will l try to look at things as fairly as you can,” he said.
“But because of our ability to persuade ourselves that what we want to believe is in fact the case, you probably won’t be 100 percent successful [in being objective],” Feldman said.
“If the question is, ‘Would the accession of Justice Barrett to the court, could it make a significant difference in the way election law cases are going to be decided?” Feldman continued, “the answer is clearly ‘Yes.'”
It was the reason why voters like Keith Love waited on line to vote for four hours. They expressed patience with the long wait, if it meant they didn’t have to see a close election.
“This is why I’m voting in person,” Love said, “so it doesn’t have to be answered by the court.”