Supreme Court to reconsider the power of state legislatures in federal elections

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The Supreme Court on Thursday said it would consider what would be a radical change to the way federal elections are conducted, giving state legislatures full power to set rules for contests even if state legislatures’ actions violate state constitutions and result in extreme partisan gerrymandering for congressional seats. .

The court will next hear a case from North Carolina where Republicans want to retrieve the redefined map drawn up by the GOP-led Legislature, but it was rejected by the state Supreme Court as a violation of the state constitution.

In March, the Supreme Court allowed the North Carolina Superior Court decision to stand for the upcoming fall elections. But three of the court’s conservative justices at the time said they were skeptical that state courts had a role in arbitrating the rules for federal elections, and a fourth said the issue was ripe for consideration.

Supreme Court rejects GOP request to change congressional maps in NC, Pennsylvania

State courts have played an influential role in congressional redistricting battles following the 2020 census. For example, judges have blocked Republican gerrymanders in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and rejected maps drawn by Democratic-led legislatures in New York and Maryland.

But the effort by the Supreme Court to examine the so-called independent state legislature doctrine is a Republican-led effort. The GOP controls both houses of the legislature in 30 states.

The doctrine comes from the Elections Clause of the US Constitution, which states that “the times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by its legislature.” While often used in the redistricting process, the independent state legislature doctrine gives lawmakers control over voter eligibility, voting by mail, and other election procedures.

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In the past, it was widely interpreted as giving that power to the states, but in a shared manner between residents and the administrative, legislative, and judicial branches.

In election disputes leading up to the 2020 presidential election, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanagh also expressed support for the idea that state courts cannot usurp the legislative role. Federal Election Rules.

In March, Alido He said that he will stop The North Carolina court approved the new congressional blueprint and he thought it was the best argument in the legislature.

“If the language of the election rule is taken seriously, there must be Some “There is a limit on the power of state courts to challenge actions taken by state legislatures when prescribing rules for the conduct of federal elections,” Alito wrote, joined by Thomas and Gorsuch. “I think the applicants will succeed in showing that the North Carolina Supreme Court overstepped those limits.”

Cavanaugh did not agree to block the state’s court action, saying it was too close to the election. But he said that the next term should be considered.

By the end of 2019, all members of the court – including Thomas, Alito, Korsch and Kavanagh – seem to be imagining some role for the state courts. In dismissing the role of the federal courts in resolving discriminatory germination cases, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. noted that challenges can go through state courts.

“State statutes and provisions in state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply,” Roberts wrote for the majority. Rucho V. Common cause.

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In 2015, the Court ruled that the Electoral Division of the Constitution did not preclude the granting of an independent commission to the voters of Arizona.

Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote to five people that “nothing in that clause suggests that a state legislature may recommend rules about the timing, place and method of holding federal elections in violation of the provisions of the state constitution.” -Memor majority Arizona Independent Redefining Commission v. Arizona State Legislature.

Liberal Ginsburg died in 2020 and was replaced by conservative judge Amy Connie Barrett, who will be instrumental in ending the new challenge.

North Carolina is a purple state, with a Republican-controlled legislature, a Democratic governor and a state Supreme Court elected by four Democrats and three Republicans. Donald Trump won the state in 2020 by 50 percent to 49 percent more than Joe Biden.

A map created by Republican lawmakers after the 2020 census would have given the GOP an edge in 10 of the 14 congressional districts, analysts said. The elected state Supreme Court’s Democratic justices said the redistricting maps had a partisan slant that was “not explained by North Carolina’s political geography.”

The court concluded that “these maps are unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt under the Free Electoral Division, Equal Protection Division, Free Speech Rule and Assembly Freedom of the Constitution of North Carolina.”

In their petition to the Supreme Court, the state Republican legislature leaders stated that state courts do not have the power to presume the legislature.

“According to its plain text, the Elections Clause creates the power to regulate the time, places, and manner of federal elections, and then vests that power in the ‘legislature’ of each state,” they wrote. “It does not leave the states free to limit the constitutional power of the Legislature or to place it elsewhere in the state machinery as a matter of state law.”

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But the state Justice Department said North Carolina sets a bad precedent for the Supreme Court to examine the issue. Because, they say, the Legislature gave state courts a role in redistricting.

“Two decades ago, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law that explicitly coded the power of state courts to reconsider legislative redefinition efforts,” the state summary reads. “At the same time, the Legislature specifically authorized state courts to ‘impose an interim district plan’ in situations such as leading to an appeal.

The case is Moore v. Harbor. It will be heard during the period starting in October.

Ann E. Marimov contributed to this report.

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