Does the Supreme Court want to give Democrats a 2024 run?
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling stating that state judges have the authority to override state legislatures regarding the conduct of federal elections. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing a 6-3 opinion, stated that the Elections Clause of Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution does not shield state legislatures from regular state judicial review.
According to Fox, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and Ketanji Brown Jackson formed the majority opinion, while Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito dissented.
Roberts emphasized that state courts maintain the power to apply state constitutional restrictions when legislatures act under the authority given to them by the Elections Clause. However, he cautioned that federal courts should not neglect their duty to exercise judicial review. The majority opinion clarifies that state courts must not exceed the boundaries of regular judicial review to the extent that they unconstitutionally interfere with the role explicitly reserved for state legislatures by Article I, Section 4 of the Federal Constitution.
The case in question, Moore v. Harper, involved a constitutional dispute over a state court’s ability to regulate federal elections, specifically gerrymandered redistricting maps. Certain state legislators sought an interpretation favoring the “independent state legislature” (ISL) theory, which would grant them significant control over the regulation of federal elections for both the president and members of Congress.
The case reached the Supreme Court after a North Carolina state court invalidated Republican-drawn congressional maps initially proposed in November 2021. The court, with a majority of Democrat justices, declared the maps unconstitutional, as they appeared to provide an advantage to the Republican-led legislature in the state’s 14 congressional districts.
Ultimately, the court-drawn maps were used in the state’s midterm elections, resulting in seven seats for each party. The GOP state legislature argued that the utilization of these court-drawn maps violated the General Assembly’s constitutional rights under the elections clause.
The GOP legislature requested the Supreme Court to invoke the ISL doctrine, contending that state legislatures possess complete authority, without substantial state judicial review, to determine the conduct of elections, as per their understanding of the Constitution. Article I of the Constitution states, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.”
Supporters of the GOP’s position expressed concerns that the outcome of the case could impact the security of elections across the country. If the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision was upheld, it could grant state and federal courts additional power to intervene in future election proceedings.
Opponents of the independent state legislature doctrine viewed it as excessively broad, suggesting that it could have adverse effects on democracy as a whole and potentially enable further gerrymandering, especially in a political climate where voter trust is low.
Ari Savitzky, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, supported the Supreme Court’s rejection of the independent state legislature theory. He stated, “In our system, there is no room for a rogue legislature that can violate its own founding charter without any checks from other branches of government.”
Derek Mueller, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, noted that Tuesday’s opinion leaves unresolved questions about the role of state courts in election cases.