Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed as a justice in the United States Supreme Court on October 26. The confirmation came after Republicans overpowered Democrats in the Senate to appoint Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee. The ramifications of this development go well beyond just the simple question of who takes up the seat left vacant following the death of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Democrats were unable to stop this, Trump’s third justice on the court as Republicans race to reshape the judiciary. Unlike in India, a US Supreme Court justice gets to serve for a lifetime. Thus, confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the country’s top court secures a likely conservative majority for a generation to come.
A Reuters-Ipsos opinion survey conducted in September showed that 62 percent of US adults thought that the Supreme Court vacancy should be filled by the presidential election winner. About 23 percent disagreed and the rest were unsure. But Barrett being confirmed, and being subsequently sworn-in, potentially opens a new era of rulings not only on the Affordable Care Act and abortion but also the presidential election.
More than 60 million Americans have already voted in the presidential polls. The final ballots will be cast on 3rd November. Due to the novel corona virus pandemic, voters have been encouraged to mail their ballots. This may possibly lead to some delay in counting of the votes. Trump and some Republicans have claimed that the process may lead to wrongdoing and potential “rigging” of the election.
The US president has repeatedly failed to clearly state that he would peacefully transfer power if he loses the election. Experts suggest that Trump’s pick Amy Coney Barrett could be immediately weighing in on election-related cases that may start piling up. These may include emergency petitions on extending deadlines for counting absentee ballots.
In 2000, a month-long legal tussle between George W. Bush and Al Gore had led to the controversial 5-4 Supreme Court ruling which ended the recount, leading Bush to in the crucial state of Florida by just 537 votes. This, in turn, helped Bush clinch 271 electoral votes one more than the majority mark.