Election Litigation in the Time of the Pandemic
87 University of Chicago Law Review Online (2020)
5 Pages Posted: 27 May 2020 Last revised: 23 Oct 2020
Date Written: May 19, 2020
In this brief essay, I consider how courts have deployed the framework of sliding-scale scrutiny in the time of the pandemic. In particular, three novel issues have arisen in recent cases: (1) how to conceptualize burdens that are attributable to both state action and the pandemic; (2) whether to fault plaintiffs for not having taken precautionary steps before the pandemic hit; and (3) what weight to give to the so-called Purcell principle, which frowns on late-breaking judicial changes to electoral rules. Overall, I think most courts have reached the right answers on these issues. The Supreme Court, however, is the glaring exception to this encouraging trend. This leads me to two conclusions. One is that sliding-scale scrutiny is an impressively flexible doctrine, able to resolve adequately new kinds of claims in the midst of an unprecedented calamity. The other is that the current Court remains what I have called the anti-Carolene Court, implacably hostile to efforts to vindicate democratic values.
Keywords: election law, voting rights
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