At least nine times since April, the Supreme Court has issued rulings in election disputes. Or perhaps “rulings” is too generous a word for those unsigned orders, which addressed matters as consequential as absentee voting during the pandemic in Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, and the potential disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions in Florida.
Most of the orders, issued on what scholars call the court’s “shadow docket,” did not bother to supply even a whisper of reasoning.
“This idea of unexplained, unreasoned court orders seems so contrary to what courts are supposed to be all about,” said Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at Harvard. “If courts don’t have to defend their decisions, then they’re just acts of will, of power. They’re not even pretending to be legal decisions.”
The orders were responses to emergency applications, and they were issued quickly, without full briefing or oral arguments (hence the “shadow docket”). Read more