May 5, 2020

Pandem-ocracy: Voting Rights and Access During the COVID Crisis

On Monday, April 6, the day before the Spring 2020 Wisconsin elections were to take place, SCOTUS released its decision in Republican National Committee v. Democratic National Committee. Following a ruling from Judge William Conley of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin that extended the timeline for the state to receive and process mail-in ballots in light of COVID-19, a ruling affirmed by the Seventh Circuit, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling, along ideologic lines, overturned the district and circuit court to conclude that the judiciary branch could not intervene.

This eleventh-hour intervention by SCOTUS meant that voters who had previously expected to receive, complete, and send in their ballots in the week following the official election date, as they were allowed to do under the District Court’s ruling, now had to either vote in-person or forgo their most fundamental democratic right. This sudden change in election policy, matched with wide-spread poll closure and the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in incredibly long lines outside of some of the state’s most populous polling location.

In this panel, sponsored by the ACS University of Idaho College of Law Student Chapter, the ACS Madison Lawyer Chapter, and the ACS At-Large Chapter, our expert speakers engaged in a discussion on the implications of RNC v. DNC for the WI elections and what the case might indicate about SCOTUS’ role in the upcoming presidential elections.


Atiba Ellis, Professor of Law and ACS Faculty Advisor, Marquette University Law School
Jeff Mandell, Partner, Stafford Rosenbaum LLP; President, ACS Madison Lawyer Chapter
Franita Tolson, Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, USC Gould School of Law; Member, ACS National Board of Directors & Board of Academic Advisors

Moderated By: 

Benjamin Cover, Associate Professor of Law, University of Idaho College of Law