New Polling Data Indicate That Democratic Voters Support Court Expansion

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Advocates launched a campaign today urging Democrats to add four new seats to the Supreme Court, as well as dozens of judges to district and appellate courts after they re-take control of the White House and Congress. Campaign Director Aaron Belkin says that the initiative is a response to Republican obstruction, theft and procedural abuse. “It’s not just that Republicans stole Merrick Garland’s seat or refused to release all of Brett Kavanaugh’s records. Under President Obama, the GOP arguably blocked more district and appellate court nominees than had been blocked in the history of the United States.”

According to new polling data that the campaign will release tomorrow, Democratic voters support court expansion. In a national poll administered October 11-15 to 1,152 registered Democrats, 43% agreed that "The next Democratic President should expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court, allowing them to make more judicial appointments in the future," with 27% opposing and 29% unsure/neither. When the unsure/neither option was removed, 61% favored the proposal and 39% opposed. Sean McElwee, the campaign’s Digital Media Director, says that “We’re seeing a dramatic shift in attitudes about the courts among Democratic voters. They care, now more than ever.”

Belkin is a San Francisco State University political science professor and advocate who spent 20 years informing public opinion about LGBT troops, McElwee is a digital activist who created the #AbolishICE hashtag, and Harvard Law Professor Mark Tushnet, who chairs the campaign’s Advisory Board, is a Supreme Court scholar. Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe is a member of the campaign’s Advisory Board as well.

The campaign is named the “1/20/21 Project” because electoral victories in 2018 and 2020 could enable Democrats to re-take control of the White House and Congress on January 20, 2021, and the Project urges Democratic leaders to expand the courts immediately after they return to power.

The new campaign will use research studies, polling data and video testimony to focus public attention on the courts. McElwee explains that, “Conservative Justices are politicians, and they happen to be quite radical politicians who spent the past generation kowtowing to corporations and elites while grievously injuring women, people of color and workers. That story needs to be told.” The campaign plans to produce videos of Americans explaining how they have been harmed by Supreme Court decisions.

McElwee says that according to polling data, progressives have tended to view the Supreme Court in positive terms because of Brown v Board, Roe v Wade and more recent decisions affirming gay rights, often forgetting that the Court has suppressed unions, facilitated gerrymandering, promoted hyper-incarceration, allowed dark money in politics, opposed gun safety regulations, endorsed a ban on mostly Muslim immigrants, curtailed affirmative action, and undermined the principle of one person, one vote.

While some judicial reforms require amending the Constitution, the size of the courts has changed several times in U.S. history, and modification only requires Congress to pass a law. To do so after their return to power, Democrats may need to eliminate the statutory filibuster or use a parliamentary procedure such as “reconciliation” to side-step the requirement for super-majority Senate support.

Mike Lux, a political consultant and veteran of two administrations who co-authored the strategic plan to pass the Affordable Care Act, says that the 1/20/21 Project’s agenda has a good chance of becoming law. “Republican dirty tricks have shattered the courts’ legitimacy, and Democrats understand that. They will be highly motivated to restore the courts’ integrity after they return to power, and I think they can get it done.”

Several scholars and advocates including Yale Law School Professors Ian Ayres and John Fabian Witt and Crooked Media Editor Brian Beutler called for the expansion of the Supreme Court well before Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Following what many Democrats view as procedural abuses during confirmation process, more than a dozen progressive thought leaders, including Congressman Ro Khanna, have endorsed expanding the size of the Court in recent days.



CONTACT: Carisa Cunningham


(617) 447-6500 (mobile)


About Pack The Courts

Pack The Courts, a national persuasion campaign urging Democrats to expand the courts after they re-take control of the White House and Congress, is a project of the 1/20/21 Action Fund, a 501c4 tax-exempt organization.