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Supreme Court Dismisses GOP Claim in North Carolina Case that May Have Revolutionized US Elections

by Michael Nguyen
6 comments
elections

The Supreme Court decreed on Tuesday that state courts can exert control over their own legislatures on redistricting and other issues related to federal elections. This move counters the claims made by North Carolina Republicans that could have substantially altered the course of Congressional and Presidential races.

By a vote of 6-3, the justices upheld a decision by North Carolina’s supreme court which invalidated a congressional redistricting scheme due to its excessive partisan bias under state law.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court hinted that there might be constraints on the efforts of state courts to supervise elections for Congress and the Presidency.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, stated that “state courts hold the power to enforce state constitutional restrictions when legislatures are acting under the authority bestowed by the Elections Clause. However, federal courts should not neglect their responsibility to implement judicial review.”

The real-world implications of this decision are minimal, as the North Carolina Supreme Court, now with a Republican majority, has already reversed its redistricting decision.

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch favored dismissing the case due to the subsequent action of the North Carolina court.

Another redistricting issue from Ohio is awaiting a decision, should the justices choose to further comment on the matter ahead of the forthcoming year’s elections.

Former President Barack Obama commended the verdict. “This ruling serves as a powerful rebuttal of the extremist far-right theory that election deniers and radicals use to destabilize our democracy. It unequivocally asserts that courts can continue to protect voters’ rights — in North Carolina and throughout the nation,” said Obama.

Derek Muller, a University of Iowa law professor and election specialist, suggested that Tuesday’s ruling does provide some room to contest state court decisions on federal election matters, “but such cases will likely be scarce.”

“Most state court rulings that could impact federal elections will probably proceed unchanged,” Muller added.

The North Carolina case drew considerable attention as four conservative justices had proposed that the Supreme Court should limit the ability of state courts to supervise elections for Congress and the Presidency.

Critics of this proposition, known as the independent legislature theory, argued that a strong ruling in favor of North Carolina Republicans could have implications far beyond just redistricting, potentially intensifying political division.

At risk were over 170 state constitutional provisions, more than 650 state laws assigning authority to create election policies to state and local officials, and thousands of regulations, including polling place locations, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

The Supreme Court heard an appeal in December by the state’s Republican legislative leaders. Their attempts to draw congressional districts to their significant advantage were thwarted by a Democratic majority in the state Supreme Court, citing the GOP map as a violation of the state Constitution.

A map drawn by the court led to each party winning seven seats in the highly competitive North Carolina during last year’s midterm elections.

The issue before the justices was whether the U.S. Constitution’s provision granting state legislatures the authority to regulate the “times, places, and manner” of congressional elections excludes state courts from the process.

Prominent conservative and former federal judge Michael Luttig, a member of the legal team defending the North Carolina court decision, argued that the case could have a transformative impact on American elections. “This is the most significant case regarding American democracy — and for American democracy — in the nation’s history,” Luttig stated.

Leading Republican legislators in North Carolina informed the Supreme Court that the Constitution’s “meticulously defined boundaries assign the regulation of federal elections to state legislatures and Congress, and nobody else.”

During almost three hours of debates, the justices appeared hesitant to issue a sweeping ruling in the case. Both liberal and conservative justices seemed to challenge the main argument that asked them to essentially strip state courts of the power to strike down legislature-drawn, gerrymandered congressional district maps for violating state constitutions.

In North Carolina, a fresh round of redistricting is anticipated to occur, likely resulting in a map with a greater number of Republican districts.

The state’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, lauded Tuesday’s decision, but also subtly admitted that it does not prevent Republicans controlling the legislature from devising a more favorable congressional map.

Cooper, who lacks the authority under state law to veto redistricting plans approved by lawmakers, warned that “Republican legislators in North Carolina and nationwide continue to pose a significant threat to democracy as they persist in enacting laws to skew elections for partisan advantage by meddling with the freedom to vote.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Supreme Court North Carolina Redistricting Case

What was the ruling of the Supreme Court in the North Carolina case?

The Supreme Court ruled that state courts have the authority to check their legislatures on redistricting and other issues affecting federal elections. The court rejected the arguments by North Carolina Republicans that could have potentially transformed the contests for Congress and the presidency.

What was the reaction of former President Barack Obama to the ruling?

Former President Barack Obama applauded the outcome. He stated that the ruling is a powerful rebuttal of the far-right theory used by election deniers and radicals seeking to destabilize democracy. It also asserts that courts can continue to protect voters’ rights in every state.

Who were the justices who favored dismissing the case?

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch favored dismissing the case because of the subsequent action of the North Carolina court.

What is the “independent legislature theory” and what was its role in this case?

The “independent legislature theory” is a proposition by some conservative justices suggesting that the Supreme Court should limit the role of state courts in overseeing federal elections. Critics argued that a ruling supporting this theory could have broader implications beyond redistricting and could intensify political division.

What was the practical effect of the decision?

The real-world implications of this decision are minimal, as the North Carolina Supreme Court, now with a Republican majority, had already reversed its redistricting decision.

How did North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper react to the decision?

Governor Roy Cooper praised the decision, but subtly acknowledged that it does not prevent Republicans who control the legislature from drawing a more favorable congressional map. He warned that Republican legislators pose a significant threat to democracy as they persist in enacting laws to skew elections for partisan advantage.

More about Supreme Court North Carolina Redistricting Case

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6 comments

Sarah_K June 27, 2023 - 9:51 pm

Politics as usual. Always a battle for power. Supreme Court, state courts, all the same. We need more ppl voting and making a difference, thats what we need.

Reply
TomB1982 June 27, 2023 - 11:12 pm

Not sure I get all the details, but sounds like a win for checks & balances. Justice Roberts seems to know what hes doin.

Reply
Sarah_K June 27, 2023 - 11:17 pm

Politics as usual. Always a battle for power. Supreme Court, state courts, all the same. We need more ppl voting and making a difference, thats what we need.

Reply
TomB1982 June 28, 2023 - 3:13 am

Not sure I get all the details, but sounds like a win for checks & balances. Justice Roberts seems to know what hes doin.

Reply
Mike J. June 28, 2023 - 2:09 pm

About time the courts start checkin the lawmakers! No more gerrymandering. The voters should decide elections, not some sneaky map-drawing.

Reply
Mike J. June 28, 2023 - 3:57 pm

About time the courts start checkin the lawmakers! No more gerrymandering. The voters should decide elections, not some sneaky map-drawing.

Reply

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