The Republicans’ bid to increase state power over election laws will be heard by the Supreme Court in case it has massive ramifications for 2024
- The case, Moore v. Harper, deals with the North Carolina congressional map
- Multiple state courts have struck down the Republican legislature’s redistricting proposal, which would have given their party control of 11 of the 14 House seats.
- The GOP argues that delisting the map is a violation of a constitutional provision that gives legislatures unilateral power over state election laws
- It is a legal theory known as the Independent State Legislature Doctrine
- The Supreme Court has overturned arguments using the theory in the past
- It has the potential to bolster the power of Republican-led legislatures in battleground states like Michigan ahead of the next presidential race.
The Supreme Court announced Thursday that the Supreme Court will hear a case that could give state legislatures nearly unfettered power over how they conduct their elections.
The decision has potentially huge implications for the upcoming presidential race.
Moore v. Harper focuses on the controversial efforts of Republican North Carolina legislators to redistrict.
They are seeking to reinstate a proposed congressional map that was abandoned by several North Carolina courts for violating state tampering laws.
But even so, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority 5-3 said it would hear Moore’s case, which would test “the doctrine of the independent state legislature”—a theory favored by Whig legal scholars and Constitutionalists.
It is an interpretation of the United States Constitution in which the state legislature is free to confront the judicial and executive branches in enacting new election laws.
In its most extreme form, the doctrine would allow the elected state legislature to hold elections with impunity for their own state laws.
Most likely, state courts would lose the power to invalidate congressional map proposals to legislatures on civil rights grounds or other construed violations of the state constitution.
The Supreme Court justices, with the addition of Justice Kitangi Brown Jackson to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, will hear an election case with potentially dramatic ramifications in her next term starting in October.
State governors may also lose veto power over election proposals for legislatures, according to the doctrine’s interpretation.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s first appointee, recently endorsed the fringe theory in a concurring opinion in a case involving mail-in ballots in the 2020 election.
Gorsuch argued, “The Constitution provides that state legislatures—not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, and not other state officials—have primary responsibility for setting the rules for elections.”
A total of four justices have agreed to the theory—the number required for the Supreme Court to hear the case.
Republican-led legislatures in battleground states that narrowly went to Joe Biden in 2020 could get a significant boost in influence over their state’s race in 2024.
The court’s siding with North Carolina Republicans could spark a dramatic upheaval in election laws in battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania — which could have an impact on the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.
The justices rejected arguments based on the doctrine of the several times independent state legislature dating back to 1916, which upheld the right of Ohioans to change election rules by means of a popular referendum.
The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the Republican-proposed map in February.
Under this plan, Republicans would have controlled all but three of the state’s congressional districts.
The Tar Heel state’s highest court voted 4-3 along party lines that the map was “beyond reasonable doubt” in its partisan advantage.
The court ruled that “achieving a partisan advantage disproportionate to the level of voter support statewide for a political party is neither a compelling nor a legitimate governmental interest.”
“This case could profoundly alter the balance of power in states and prevent state courts and agencies from providing protections for people’s right to vote,” Rick Hassen, a law professor at the University of California, told The Associated Press.
There is a wide variety of ways a court can rule on this. Taken to the extreme, it would be a radical rewrite of our system for conducting elections.
The announcement came on the final day of one of the most politically charged court cases in recent history.
Over the past month alone, justices have eliminated federal protections for abortion, dramatically expanded concealment-carrying-fire laws and allowed the Biden administration to end a controversial immigration policy known as Stay in Mexico.
A ruling in favor of North Carolina Republican lawmakers could undermine the ability of state courts to interpret election laws as constitutional or not.