Election laws: Supreme Court poised to hear GOP-backed cases

Many voting law experts are concerned at the prospect of judges attempting to limit state courts’ powers in elections.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appears poised to take on a Republican-seasoned snap election case that could increase state legislatures’ power over congressional and presidency races, as well as redistricting districts and cutting state courts out of the equation.

The problem has cropped up repeatedly in cases in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where Democratic majorities in the state supreme courts have invoked electoral protections in their state constitutions to thwart the plans of Republican-dominated lawmakers.

Four conservative Supreme Court justices have already expressed an interest in a decision on whether state courts that find violations of their constitution can order federal election changes and the redrawing of congressional districts every 10 years. The Supreme Court has never invoked the doctrine of an independent state legislature, although three justices upheld it in the Bush v. Gore case, which decided the 2000 presidential election.

“The issue will almost certainly continue to arise until the court finally resolves it,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in March.

It only takes four of the nine judges to agree to hear a case. A majority of five is required for a final decision.

Many voting law experts are concerned at the prospect of judges attempting to limit state courts’ powers in elections.

“A ruling supporting a strong or strong reading of the independent state legislature theory would potentially give state legislatures even more power to restrict voting rights and provide an avenue for litigation to undermine election results that violate the will of the people.” to express.” Law professor Richard Hasen wrote in an email.

But when the judges get involved, Hasen said, “it makes sense that the court would do so outside of the context of an election with national implications.”

The court could say as early as Tuesday or perhaps next week whether it will hear an appeal from North Carolina Republicans. The appeal challenges a state court ruling that overturned the congressional districts drawn by the General Assembly, which made GOP candidates in 10 of the state’s 14 congressional districts the likely winners.

The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the borders violated the state constitution’s provisions protecting free elections and freedom of speech and association by impeding voters who support Democrats.

The new card, which eventually surfaced and will be used this year, gives Democrats a good chance of winning six seats and possibly a seventh in a new toss-up district.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also picked a map Republicans say is likely to lead to the election of more Democrats as the two parties battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections. An appeal from Pennsylvania is also awaited if the court passes the North Carolina case on for any reason.

At the national level, the parties fought to a tie in the new election, leaving the Republicans in a position to gain control of the House of Representatives even if they narrowly win a majority of the national vote.

If the GOP does well in November, the party could also win seats on state supreme courts, including in North Carolina, which could allow for more skewed maps to be drawn that previous courts have rejected. Two court seats held by North Carolina Democrats are up for election this year, and Republicans need to win just one to take control of the court for the first time since 2017.

In their appeal to the nation’s High Court, North Carolina Republicans wrote that it is time for the Supreme Court to consider the electoral clause in the US Constitution, which gives each state’s legislature the responsibility to “determine the times, places, and manners and way”. to hold congressional elections.

“Activist judges and fellow plaintiffs have demonstrated time and time again that they believe state courts have the final say over congressional tickets, no matter what the US Constitution says,” North Carolina Senate Chairman Phil Berger said when the appeal was filed in the was submitted in March.

The Supreme Court generally does not intervene in state court decisions based on state law.

But four Supreme Court justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh – have said the court should step in to determine whether the state courts are abusing the powers the US Constitution grants to state legislatures have taken over.

That was the argument Thomas and two other conservative judges made in the Bush case against Gore, although that case was decided on different grounds.

If the court takes up the North Carolina case and rules in favor of the GOP, North Carolina Republicans could draw new maps for the 2024 election without worrying that the state Supreme Court would strike them down.

Defenders of state court involvement argue that state legislatures would also be given the power to pass provisions that would suppress voting, which could only be challenged in federal courts. Delegating powers to electoral boards and secretaries of state to manage federal elections in emergencies could also be legally challenged, some scholars said.

“Its passage would radically change our elections,” wrote Ethan Herenstein and Tom Wolf, both of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program at New York University Law School, earlier this month.

Robertson reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Election laws: Supreme Court poised to hear GOP-backed cases

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