“The majority of this court declares that this case presents a ‘narrow, technical question,’” she wrote. “That is wrong. The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic.”
She said the majority had put voters in Wisconsin to an unacceptable choice.
“Either they will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety,” Justice Ginsburg wrote. “Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own. That is a matter of utmost importance — to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin’s citizens, the integrity of the state’s election process, and in this most extraordinary time, the health of the nation.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling addressed a relatively narrow issue even as broader ones arose. Earlier on Monday, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, issued an executive order delaying in-person voting and extending the deadline for the receipt of absentee ballots to June 9. Mr. Evers acted after the State Legislature, controlled by Republicans, refused to postpone the election.
Within hours, the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked Mr. Evers’s order.
The case before the U.S. Supreme Court arose from a separate lawsuit that sought to delay the elections, which include both presidential primaries, a statewide Supreme Court race and local contests. A federal judge, despite expressing misgivings about the wisdom of proceeding with elections in a health crisis, said it was beyond his power to order a delay.
But the judge, William M. Conley of the Federal District Court in Madison, did require a six-day extension, to April 13, of the deadline to submit absentee ballots. The federal appeals court in Chicago let the extension stand.
Republican groups and the State Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, asked the Supreme Court to undo Judge Conley’s ruling, calling it “a deeply consequential and disruptive change.”
“It will inevitably sow confusion over when voters need to submit their absentee ballots,” their brief said. “A last-minute change to a voter deadline carries an increased risk that voters will not appreciate when votes actually must be cast.”