With a divided court and major rulings hanging by a single vote, replacing Antonin Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court has become the nation's hottest political football -- and it's even an election year. Since Scalia's death, progressives have targeted several rulings they would like to overturn, provided they are able to replace Scalia with a like-minded judge.
Campaign Finance Reform
Progressives have long sought to over Citizens United v Federal Election Commission that was ruled in 2009. It allows individuals or businesses to contribute unlimited amounts of cash to electioneer for candidates. Direct contributions to a single federal candidate, though, remain capped. The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment rights of persons to speak extend to people who own businesses. Scalia explained in his opinion to the ruling that the text of the Constitution does not "exclude any category of speaker."
But progressives also want to go back to 1976 when the Court ruled in Buckley v Valeo that campaign finance restrictions violated the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution -- the right to speech and due process.
In the ruling, the court struck down limits on individual and corporate finances for electioneering communication. Like Citizens United, the court let the direct individual financial contribution to campaigns remain restricted.
Capital Punishment
Justice Scalia was a devout Catholic but considered himself a strict textualist to the Constitution. He believed the death penalty was not restricted by the country's founding document, saying that the mentally ill could be executed because juries are not mentally ill.
The death penalty has a tumultuous relationship with the Supreme Court. In 1972, it ruled that the penalty violated the 8th and 14th amendments. But the court reinstated the legality of capital punishment in 1976 for most states after many of them retooled their execution procedures.
In 2015, Justice Ginsburg and Breyer called for the court to address the constitutionality of the death penalty in their dissent of the ruling whether the drug cocktail many states used to kill condemned prisoners was cruel. Today, a Gallup poll shows support for capital punishment at 61 percent who support it to 37 percent who oppose it, down from a high mark of support in the 1990s.
Election Redistricting
Democrats believe they can regain the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives if they could stop politicians from designing district borders after every census. Several cases have traveled through the appeals courts where Democrats hold a majority that covers two-thirds of the population. If there's a tie at the Supreme Court, the lower court rulings will stand. As an alternative, Democrats propose that unelected committees are charged with redrawing election boundaries.
Scalia believed the Constitution supported the rights of the preborn and often declared the court must reverse Roe v Wade, the decision that made abortion legal in 1973. Since Roe, states have regulated the billion-dollar abortion industry but at every regulation, abortion advocates turn to the courts to declare on abortion regulations as unconstitutional. As court cases ascend through the appeals courts, abortion regulations could be stricken down without Scalia's dependable vote.
Environmental Regulations
In its decision on Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, the Supreme Court ruled against an effort by the Obama administration to limit certain emissions from power plants. In a 5-4 vote, the court said that compliance costs should accounted for at the very beginning of the federal regulatory process. In doing so, the court sided with 23 state governments. The states argued, and the court agreed, that the benefits were far outweighed by the costs. With a liberal majority on the bench, and a Democrat in the White House, environmentalists are confident that strong regulations could be put on power generation, thus increasing costs to consumers. 



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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