This year’s presidential election could have an impact on the path of the Supreme Court that will last much longer than the upcoming term. Currently, the country’s highest court is evenly divided; four liberal judges reflecting the main interests of Democrats, four Republican appointed judges reflecting conservative interests, and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy representing the median as a centrist Republican. The winner of the race between GOP candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama would likely lead to the winner selecting a new justice during the upcoming term. This would allow their respective party to gain an advantage in Supreme Court voting over key issues such as abortion, gay rights, marriage rights and voting laws.
Romney would be able to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, with a conservative judge, while Obama would likely look to appoint liberal justices in the place of 76-year-old Antonin Scalia, or Kennedy. During his time in office Obama appointed two Justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The pair have stood on the liberal side of most issues, including the Citizens United case which gave birth to the Super PACs and unlimited campaign spending seen this year. If two more young liberal judges were to be placed in the Supreme Court, it could sway the court’s decisions for decades.
“The average justice remains in office nearly 25 years — more than six presidential terms,” lawyer Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix told the LA Times. “Supreme Court nominations are one of most enduring legacies a president has.”
In the upcoming term, the Supreme Court will vote on gay marriage for the first time, a decision that will no doubt divide the justices. With an additional vote, conservatives could look forward to the court upholding stricter regulations on same-sex marriage as well as abortion practices. Next month, the court will also hear a case from the University of Texas, to decide whether race-based affirmative action at colleges and universities should be limited or stopped.
Though the presidential election only determines the executive branch’s direction for the next four years, their decisions could have ramifications on the judicial branch for decades to come.