We have heard it before – over and over – your vote counts! This upcoming presidential election, your vote will really count because the next President could change the makeup of the highest court in the country, the United States Supreme Court.
When the next president is sworn in, three of the nine Supreme Court justices will be 80 or older. Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote, and Antonin Scalia, a conservative, will be almost 81, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal, will be 83. So, it is easy to guess that the next president will get to appoint one or two justices during his/her term of office.
Nonetheless it is fair, to guess that the next president will get to appoint at least one or two justices during his or her first term in office. If the vacancies to fill come from among the three justices mentioned, it will be a very big deal.
Last term, Justice Kennedy was in the majority in 14 of the 19 cases decided by 5-4 votes – including the Obergefell v. Hodges decision supporting same-sex marriage, which Kennedy wrote. He was also part of the 6-3 majority that upheld the Affordable Care Act. The next president’s appointment of Kennedy’s successor could affect the outcomes of the court’s most contested cases for decades to come.
But if a Democratic president gets to replace Scalia, or a Republican names Ginsburg’s successor, those scenarios also could change the course of the court on issues ranging from abortion to affirmative action to voting rights – all of which are still contested in lower courts and in the public conversation.
Drawing a direct connection between who is president and the composition of the court is difficult, turning on variables such as which justice departs and when, which party controls the Senate and who is appointed. It is not as if incoming presidents can appoint an entirely new Supreme Court, as they can with the Cabinet.
So you decide – who do you want to be on the next Supreme Court?