Sunday, April 2, 2023

Supreme Court seems ready to hear election case that could increase state legislators’ power

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – The Supreme Court appears ready to tackle a new Republican-led election campaign that could increase the power of state legislatures over congressional and presidency races, as well as redistribute, and state courts out of the equation sny.

The issue has repeatedly arisen in cases of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where Democratic majorities in the states’ highest courts have called for voice protection in their state constitutions to thwart the plans of Republican-dominated lawmakers.

Four Conservative judges of the Supreme Court have already taken note of their interest in deciding whether state courts, which find violations of their state constitutions, can order changes to federal elections and the once-a-decade-old withdrawal of congressional districts. The Supreme Court has never invoked what is known as the Independent State Legislature Doctrine, although three judges have promoted it in Bush v. Gore case that ended the 2000 presidential election.

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

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

Many election lawyers are concerned about the prospect of judges attempting to reduce state courts’ powers over elections.

“A decision that endorses a strong or muscular reading of the independent state legislature theory will possibly give state legislators even more power to restrict voting rights and provide a path for litigation to undermine the election outcomes that express the will of the people,” “Professor of Law Richard Hasen wrote in an email.

But if the judges are going to get involved, Hasen said, “it makes sense for the court to do it outside the context of an election with national implications.”

The court can say as early as Tuesday, or perhaps next week, whether it will hear an appeal filed by North Carolina Republicans. The appeal challenges a state court ruling that has thrown away the congressional districts drawn by the General Assembly that have made IDP candidates likely to win in 10 of the state’s 14 congressional districts.

The North Carolina Supreme Court has found that the boundaries violate state constitutional provisions that protect free elections and freedoms of speech and association by hindering voters who support Democrats.

The new card, which has finally emerged and is being used this year, gives Democrats a good chance of winning six seats, and possibly a seventh in a new throw-up district.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has also chosen a card that Republicans say is likely to lead to the election of more Democrats, as the two parties fight for control of the U.S. House in the midterm elections in November. A Pennsylvania appeal is also pending if the court takes over the North Carolina case for some reason.

A Police Officer Walks In Front Of The United States Supreme Court Building In Washington, Dc

A police officer walks in front of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, USA, May 13, 2021. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly

Nationally, the parties have fought to a draw in redistribution, putting Republicans in a position to gain control of the House, even if they only fall short of winning a majority of national votes.

If the GOP does well in November, the party could also win seats in the state’s highest courts, including in North Carolina, which could allow for the drawing of more skewed maps that 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 country’s Supreme Court, North Carolina Republicans wrote that it was time for the Supreme Court to consider the election clause in the U.S. Constitution, which gives each state’s legislature the responsibility to determine “the times, places, and ways.” of holding congressional elections.

“Activist judges and allied plaintiffs have repeatedly proven that they believe state courts have the ultimate say in congressional cards, no matter what the U.S. Constitution says,” said North Carolina Sen. Phil Berger when the appeal was filed in March. .

The Supreme Court generally does not care about state court rulings that are rooted in constitutional law.

But four Supreme Court justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh – said the court should intervene to decide whether state courts have improperly taken over powers given to state lawmakers by the U.S. Constitution.

This was the argument made by Thomas and two other conservative judges in Bush v. Gore argued, although that case was decided on other grounds.

If the court picks up the North Carolina case and rules in the GOP’s favor, North Carolina Republicans could sign new cards for 2024 elections with less concern that the state Supreme Court will defeat them.

Defenders of state court involvement argue that state legislators will also have the power to pass provisions that will suppress voting, only subject to dispute in federal courts. Delegation of power to electoral councils and secretaries of state to conduct federal elections in emergencies can also be legally questioned, some scholars said.

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

Robertson reports from Raleigh, North Carolina.

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