Are Supreme Court Justices allowed to vote in presidential elections?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As citizens of the United States, by birthright or naturalization, Supreme Court justices most certainly have the right to vote in any local, state, or national election. Before ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, however, only white men who owned property were given the right to vote. Of course, every Supreme Court Justice until well into the twentieth-century had been a white man. After the Civil War, as millions of black men were freed from slavery, they too were given voting rights with passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, but it wasn't until Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the court by Lyndon Johnson in 1967 that an African American rose to become a justice.

With passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, women finally gained the right to vote after many years of struggle by suffragettes. It wouldn't be for another sixty-one years, however, for there to be a woman serving on the high court. Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman justice when she was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981. Another milestone for the court came in 2009 when the first Hispanic justice Sonia Sotomayor was appointed by President Obama.

Despite being able to vote and have party affiliations, Supreme Court justices should demonstrate independence from political bias and express judicial opinions based on the Constitution and precedent. Unfortunately, in today's hyper-partisan atmosphere, it is clear that most of the justices vote along political and ideological lines. Currently, the court has turned to the right, especially with a new justice in the wings being appointed by Republican Donald Trump.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Supreme Court Justices have the right to vote in presidential elections. They also have the right to vote in any other election in which citizens are eligible to vote. This is a precious right that should not be taken away because a person is in the judiciary or has any other governmental position. The president, vice-president, members of the cabinet, senators, and representatives all have the right to vote. 

What Supreme Court Justices should not do is express their opinions publicly about presidential candidates, or for that matter, about presidents. They have been known to make remarks at private events from time to time, but they should be careful. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg realized this after she commented on Donald Trump and then apologized for her remarks. The Supreme Court should at least appear to be above the fray of politics, even if it is not.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial