The Supreme Court has always been the most mysterious branch of our government. Sure, we all know that it is the highest court, there are nine justices and they serve for life. But very few Americans know anything about the inner-workings of the court, such as the processes the justices go through before making a ruling, why they make such rulings or even who serves as chief justice.
This lack of knowledge about the court can be partially attributed to the lack of media coverage — seeing as the court does not receive very much attention from the media until a controversial decision is made. It could also be because the court is seemingly very separated from the rest of the population, since the justices serve lifetime terms, and they do not hold ties to any one state, they are less likely to have a following from any area.
The lack of knowledge and general interest in the Supreme Court can be troubling, especially when you think about it in the context of this election.
There is currently a vacancy on the court, since the passing of Justice Scalia in February of 2016. President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to take Scalia’s place, but all presidential nominees of justices must be approved by the Senate, and since Republicans currently hold the majority in the Senate, they are refusing to hold hearings to confirm any justice who Obama nominates, hopeful that whoever wins the presidency in November will nominate a more conservative justice than the one proposed by the president.
Currently, three Supreme Court justices are over the age of 75 (the average retirement age for Supreme Court justices is around 78). And while the next president will most definitely be appointing at least one justice (to take over Scalia’s former seat), it is very likely that he or she could appoint three more justices after replacing Scalia.
Naming a Supreme Court justice is arguably the most significant decision a president can make. Putting a new justice on the court is something that will affect our nation for decades to come, and that is a decision that should be made with extraordinary caution.
In 2015 alone, the Supreme Court gave out rulings about important issues such as pollution limits, health-care subsidies, redistricting, religious signs and free speech, the confederate flag and free speech, employment discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and of course — same-sex marriage.
The Supreme Court gives out rulings that shape our country in fundamental ways. The justices give out rulings that change us as a nation, and they single handedly choose what direction we are headed.
This is something that everyone should consider when heading to the polls next week. Our next president could end up appointing anywhere from one to four Supreme Court justices.
These justices will make the highest, most fundamental rulings of our time. And it is our duty, as citizens, to make sure that this November, we are voting for someone who we believe can handle that responsibility. Someone who will appoint justices that will uphold the values that we would like to see reflected in our nation’s laws.
So, if for nothing else, be sure to head out to the polls on Tuesday. The future of the Supreme Court is in your hands.