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Trump's taxes, birth control top Supreme Court's closing agenda

Greg Stohr, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

The Supreme Court's conservative wing has been broadly supportive of religious rights in recent years. On Tuesday a divided court bolstered the school-choice movement by ruling that states must include religious schools in programs that offer taxpayer subsidies for private education.

Faithless electors

The pending issue that could most directly affect the November election involves so-called faithless electors, people who cast their votes for president in the Electoral College for someone other than the winner of their state's popular vote.

At issue in cases from Washington and Colorado is whether states can penalize, or remove, a faithless elector. The Supreme Court ruled in 1952 that states could require electors to support their party's nominee, but the justices have never said whether states can take enforcement steps.

Electors are appointed to the Electoral College only if their party's candidate wins, and the broad expectation is that they will support that candidate. But in 2016, 10 electors voted, or tried to vote, for someone other than Trump or Hillary Clinton. Only nine electors had voted for someone other than their party's candidate from 1900 to 2012.

During arguments, Justice Samuel Alito said giving electors free rein could produce "chaos" in a close presidential election.

Robocalls and Oklahoma

A sleeper case could wipe out the 1991 federal ban on robocalls to mobile phones. The law is being challenged on free speech grounds by Democratic Party officials in Oregon and Washington and a trade group that represents political consultants.

 

A lower court tossed out an exception in the law for calls made to collect debt owed to the federal government. But that ruling had the effect of expanding the ban, and the challengers are looking to invalidate the entire law before the election so they can ramp up their activities.

Finally, the Supreme Court could rule that much of eastern Oklahoma is still American Indian territory -- and cast doubt on the state's authority to prosecute crime and enforce regulations there. A convicted child molester is arguing that Oklahoma lacked authority to prosecute him because he's a Native American whose alleged crime took place within the boundaries of the Creek Nation reservation.

The core issue is whether Congress took the necessary steps to "disestablish" the Creek reservation in preparation for Oklahoma becoming a state in 1907.

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