WASHINGTON (UKTN) — The Supreme Court appears poised to take up a new Republican-pressed election case that could increase the power of state lawmakers over congressional and presidential races, as well as redistricting, and exclude state courts from the equation.
The problem has arisen repeatedly in cases from North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where Democratic majorities in the highest state courts have invoked the voting protections in their state constitutions to thwart the plans of legislatures dominated by the Republicans.
Already, four conservative Supreme Court justices have signaled an interest in deciding whether state courts, finding violations of their state constitution, can order changes to federal elections and the once-a-decade reshuffling of districts across the country. Congress. The Supreme Court has never invoked what is known as the doctrine of independent state legislature, although three justices advanced it in Bush v. Gore who settled the 2000 presidential election.
“The problem is almost certain to continue to arise until the Court finally resolves it,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in March.
It is enough that four of the nine judges agree to hear a case. A majority of five is necessary for a possible decision.
Many election law experts are alarmed by the prospect that judges could seek to reduce the powers of state courts over elections.
“A ruling endorsing a strong or heavy-handed reading of UKTN state legislature theory would potentially give state legislatures even more power to restrict voting rights and pave the way for litigation to overturn election results expressing will People.” law professor Richard Hasen wrote in an email.
But if judges are to get involved, Hasen said, “it makes sense for the Court to do so outside of the context of an election with national implications.”
The court could say as early as Tuesday, or possibly the following week, whether it will hear an appeal filed by Republicans in North Carolina. The appeal challenges a state court ruling that rejected General Assembly-drawn congressional districts that made GOP candidates likely winners in 10 of the state’s 14 congressional districts.
The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the borders violated provisions of the state constitution protecting free elections and the freedoms of speech and association by disabling voters who support Democrats.
The new map that has finally emerged and is being used this year gives Democrats a good shot at winning six seats, and possibly a seventh in a new tossed district.
Pennsylvania’s highest court also selected a map that Republicans say will likely lead to the election of more Democrats, as the two parties battle for control of the US House in the midterm elections. -mandate in November. An appeal from Pennsylvania is also pending, if the court, for whatever reason, passes on the North Carolina case.
Nationally, parties battled for a draw in the redistricting, which leaves Republicans in good stead to take control of the House even if they come just short of winning a majority of national votes. .
If the GOP does well in November, the party could also win seats in state supreme courts, including in North Carolina, which could draw steeper maps than previous courts have rejected. Two court seats held by North Carolina Democrats are on the ballot this year and Republicans only need to win one to take control of the court for the first time since 2017.
In their appeal to the nation’s High Court, Republicans in North Carolina wrote that it was time for the Supreme Court to rule on the Election Clause of the US Constitution, which gives each state’s legislature responsibility for determining “times, places and manner”. to hold congressional elections.
“Activist judges and allied plaintiffs have proven time and time again that they believe state courts have the final say on Congressional cards, whatever the U.S. Constitution says,” said North Carolina Senate leader , Phil Berger, when filing the appeal in March.
The Supreme Court generally does not interfere with decisions of state courts that are grounded in state law.
But four Supreme Court justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh – said the court should intervene to decide whether state courts had improperly taken powers granted by the US Constitution to state lawmakers.
This is the argument that Thomas and two other conservative judges made in Bush v. Gore, although this case was decided on other grounds.
If the court takes up the North Carolina case and rules in favor of the GOP, Republicans in North Carolina could draw new maps for the 2024 election without fear that the state Supreme Court will canceled.
Defenders of state court involvement argue that state legislators would also have the power to pass provisions that would suppress the vote, subject only to challenge in federal courts. Delegating authority to election commissions and secretaries of state to handle federal elections in an emergency could also be legally challenged, some scholars have said.
“Passing it would dramatically 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.