Seventh Circuit Review


Ordinarily, federal judges should not alter election rules near an election in order to avoid voter confusion, thereby diminishing electoral participation. However, this principal should not apply in unprecedented times, especially while case numbers rise amidst of a novel global pandemic. Federal courts must intervene to prevent injustice in circumstances when the legislature is ill equipped to respond appropriately under time constraints, especially when public health hangs in the balance. The Supreme Court, in Anderson v. Celebrezze and Burdick v. Takushi, established the analytical framework to be applied to challenges to election laws which infringe on constitutional rights: courts must weigh the burden placed on the right against the state’s interests advanced by the restriction. Where, as was the case here, exigent circumstances resulted in severe infringement on citizens’ right to vote, federal judges must intervene because the judiciary is equipped to move more nimbly than the legislature when necessary. This Note argues the Seventh Circuit wrongly decided Democratic National Committee v. Bostelmann. Justice Rovner, in dissent, took into account the full landscape, applying precedent to the circumstances. The United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin carefully considered the effects of the pandemic on Wisconsin, heeded the Supreme Court’s warning in Purcell v. Gonzalez, appropriately applied the Anderson-Burdick balancing framework, and accordingly provided relief to ease the burden of the pandemic on Wisconsin voters. This note articulates the factors—met here—which indicate appropriate judicial action in advance of an election.

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