In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Democratic Party leaders have pushed to roll back election laws and eligibility requirements in certain states in the purported goal of making it easier for people to cast a ballot by mail in the upcoming election.
One such challenge was raised over South Carolina’s requirement that mail-in ballots include a witness signature in order to be valid. But while both a federal district court and an appeals court ruled against the enforcement of that requirement, the Supreme Court reinstated it Monday, as reported by The Hill, in a win for both President Donald Trump and voters concerned about election security.
SCOTUS reverses lower courts
The ruling included a caveat allowing ballots already received or mailed within two days without a witness signature to be accepted and counted. The reinstated rule will become mandatory thereafter.
Challenges to the requirement date back at least to May, when opponents described it as an unconstitutional burden on the right of South Carolinians to vote amid a public health crisis.
Initially, U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs sided with the challengers and issued an injunction against state officials enforcing the witness requirement. That judge’s order was subsequently upheld by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
This week, however, the order was struck down by the Supreme Court, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing the order.
While there was no dissent included, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch noted that they would have reinstated the requirement in full without an allowance for any ballots lacking a witness signature.
“Defied that principle”
Citing prior court precedent, Kavanaugh noted two major reasons for the ruling. The first, he wrote, is that local and state officials entrusted with the health and safety of the people should be granted “broad latitude” by the courts, a principle he argued was directly “contravened” by the district court.
“Second, for many years, this Court has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts ordinarily should not alter state election rules in the period close to an election,” Kavanaugh wrote. “By enjoining South Carolina’s witness requirement shortly before the election, the District Court defied that principle and this Court’s precedents.”
South Carolina GOP Chairman Drew McKissick was among those in his party celebrating the decision, as reported by the Washington Examiner.
“Despite the Democrats’ efforts to hijack a pandemic and use it to meddle with our election laws, they’ve lost,” he said. “We’re pleased the Supreme Court reinstated the witness signature requirement and recognized its importance in helping to prevent election fraud.”
With President Trump casting the credibility of mail-in voting into question, this decision might give some of his supporters in South Carolina an extra degree of comfort with Election Day rapidly approaching.