Supreme Court weighs big elections case from North Carolina

A Republican-led challenge is demanding a ruling that could dramatically increase state lawmakers’ power over national elections.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is about to face a new election, a Republican-led challenge asking judges to issue a new ruling that could dramatically increase state lawmakers’ power over with parliamentary and presidential elections.

The court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case from North Carolina, where Republican efforts to appeal to congressional districts in their favor have been defeated by a Democratic majority in the state Supreme Court. blocked because the GOP map violates the state constitution.

A court-drawn map produced seven seats per party in last month’s highly competitive North Carolina midterm elections.

The question for the judges is whether the provision of the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power to make regulations about the “time, place, and manner” of congressional elections. prevent state courts from participating in the process.

“This is the most important case for American democracy,” said former federal judge Michael Luttig, a prominent conservative who joined the legal team defending the North Carolina court decision. – and for American democracy – in national history.

Republican leaders of the North Carolina legislature told the Supreme Court that “the carefully drawn lines of the Constitution place the regulation of federal elections in the hands of state legislatures, Congress and no one else.”

Three conservative judges have voiced support for the idea that state courts have improperly exercised Constitutional powers when it comes to federal elections. A fourth has written in favor of limiting the power of the state courts in this area.

But the Supreme Court has never invoked the so-called independent state legislature theory. However, it was mentioned by three conservatives in a separate opinion in the Bush v Gore case that settled the 2000 presidential election.

If the courts recognized it now, opponents of the concept argue, the implications could be much broader than just redistricting.

According to the Brennan Center, the strongest ruling yet for the North Carolina Republican Party could weaken more than 170 articles of the state’s constitution, more than 650 state laws that authorize election policy to state officials state and local, and thousands of regulations regarding the location of polling places. for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

Luttig, who advised former Vice President Mike Pence that he had no right to refuse electoral votes after the 2020 election, was among the prominent conservatives and Republicans who have lined up against widely asserted that legislatures cannot be challenged in state courts when they make decisions about federal elections, including redistricting congressional districts.

That group includes former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, law professor Steven Calabresi, founder of the Conservative Federalist Association, and Benjamin Ginsberg, a longtime attorney for the Republican and Republican candidates.

“Unfortunately, because of continued and widespread efforts to sow distrust and spread misinformation, confidence in our elections is at a low point,” Ginsberg wrote in a filing. of the Supreme Court. risks making a bad situation much worse, exacerbating the current moment of political polarization and further undermining confidence in our elections.”

The debates are coming a day after the final contest of the 2022 midterm elections, the contest in the Georgia Senate between Democratic Senators Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

During that run, state courts ruled in favor of the Democrats allowing the vote on the Saturday before the election, over opposition from Republicans.

Jason Snead, of the Conservative Honest Elections Project, said the case is an opportunity for the high court to rein in the out-of-control state courts being pushed by Democratic lawyers to create rules. new rules governing voting effectively, including the Georgia example.

“We’ve seen a fairly widespread attempt to use the courts to rewrite electoral laws if those laws don’t fit the partisan agenda,” Snead said on a call. with reporters. “That’s not what we want to see when it goes against the Constitution.”

He is among those who support high court intervention, who say the case does not represent a “threat to democracy.”

Instead, judges can take a narrow stance that places limits on state courts without overturning the choices New York and other states have made to restrict access. partisan redistricting, a group of New York voters wrote in a court filing.

New Yorkers tacitly realize that if courts give more power to state legislatures to draw congressional lines, Republicans might not necessarily benefit.

During the last redistricting cycle, the states that used independent redistricting commissions instead of legislatures were largely Democratic-dominated states. The committees attracted 95 House seats in states with Democratic legislatures and governors, as opposed to just 12 in states controlled by the GOP. A ruling giving the legislatures ultimate power over redistricting could erase those commissions and allow Democrats to redraw a major portion of the House map.

“The bottom line is that the impact of this fringe theory will be dire,” said former Attorney General Eric Holder, chairman of the National Democratic Regional Redistricting Committee. “It can unleash a wave of joy from both sides.”

Even less dramatic changes may not necessarily skew the GOP’s path on the redistricting map of the country that has essentially been fought for and in which state court rulings causing Democrats to lose as many seats in the House as Republicans.

The Supreme Court declined to join the North Carolina case in March, allowing the use of court-appointed counties this year.

Judges Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas disagreed. Writing to three people, Alito said “there must be some limit to the authority of state courts to fight actions taken by state legislatures when they prescribe rules of conduct.” federal elections. I think it is likely that the applicants will be successful in demonstrating that the North Carolina Supreme Court exceeded those limits.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh has written exclusively about the need for federal courts to oversee the actions of state courts when it comes to federal elections.

Chief Justice John Roberts’ record on this question gives both sides some hope. In 2015, he wrote a strong objection to the court’s decision to maintain an independent redistricting commission in Arizona.

Roberts wrote that the Constitution does not allow “a state to completely exclude the ‘Legislature’ from redistricting the area. “

But in 2019, Roberts wrote the court’s majority opinion that federal courts were closed to claims of partisan jovial behavior but noted that state courts remained open. “Provisions in state law and state constitutions can provide standards and guidelines for state courts to adopt,” he wrote, in an opinion piece attended by Alito, Gorsuch , Kavanaugh and Thomas.

The court’s other conservative judge, Amy Coney Barrett, has no track record in this area.

In North Carolina, a new redistricting is expected to begin next year and produce a map with more Republican districts, regardless of the outcome of the high court case. high.

In last month’s elections, voters won a majority on the state Supreme Court, electing two new Republican justices to give the Republicans a 5-2 advantage and It is possible, though unlikely, that the court will favor the map with more Republican districts. Supreme Court weighs big elections case from North Carolina

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