As November looms closer and excitement builds for the 2016 presidential election, it is important to understand that this election will do a lot more than just determine who will serve as the next leader of our country. This election will determine the future of the Supreme Court of the United States.
On February 13, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly, leaving a vacancy on the Court. With only eight of the nine seats currently filled, the need to fill the ninth seat is dire. Merrick Garland—the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit—was nominated in March by President Obama to fill the vacancy, but he has yet to receive a Senate hearing or vote on the nomination. It’s undetermined if he will receive one in the next two months. If a vote doesn’t happen, this will leave the responsibility to the next president.
In addition to Justice Scalia’s vacancy, we must consider the ages of the current justices. Of the eight remaining members of the Court, at least three are nearly 80 years old or older. The next president faces the likelihood of filling the seats of several associate justices during their administration.
This is huge! It’s extremely important to consider the magnitude of the impact of these nominations—the future of the Court will be determined by these potential justices. The Supreme Court exists as the non-partisan, final authority of law in the United States. Justices serve lifetime appointments, with most serving an average of twenty-five years on the highest court of the United States. That means that the justices that could be nominated by the next president would likely shape legal precedent for the next quarter of a century!
Future Supreme Court justices will likely rule on issues crucial to the feminist movement including environmental protections, immigration reform, and LBGTQ rights. So what does all of this mean for students like us?
To put it simply, the next appointees to the Supreme Court must uphold women’s access to reproductive health, especially in the wake of the landmark case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Justices appointed by the next president will serve on the bench for an average of two and a half decades—longer than most college students have been alive. To ensure that future Supreme Court justices build on feminist victories like Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, make sure to vote on November 8. That’s why when we head to the polls this fall, we must remember that the Supreme Court is at stake and #VoteFeminist!