Supreme Court’s Ruling Rejects GOP in North Carolina Case, Impacting Elections Beyond the State

by Ryan Lee

In a significant decision, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that state courts possess the authority to limit the actions of legislatures in matters of federal redistricting and elections. This ruling dismisses the arguments put forth by North Carolina Republicans, which had the potential to greatly reshape congressional and presidential races not only within the state but also nationwide.

With a 6-3 majority, the justices upheld the North Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling that deemed a congressional districting plan excessively partisan under state law.

However, the Supreme Court hinted at potential limitations on state courts’ ability to oversee elections for Congress and president, suggesting that further election-related cases on this issue are likely.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing on behalf of the court, emphasized that “state courts retain the authority to apply state constitutional restraints when legislatures act under the power conferred upon them by the Elections Clause. But federal courts must not abandon their own duty to exercise judicial review.”

This ruling marked the fourth instance in the term where conservative and liberal justices united to reject the most extreme legal arguments presented by conservative state elected officials and advocacy groups. Prior decisions on voting rights, a Native American child welfare law, and a Biden administration immigration policy also defied ideological boundaries on the court.

Anticipated major rulings by Friday include affirmative action in higher education, the administration’s $400 billion student loan forgiveness plan, and a clash between religious and LGBTQ rights.

In practical terms, Tuesday’s ruling has minimal impact in North Carolina since the state Supreme Court, now controlled by Republicans, has already nullified its redistricting decision. Another redistricting case from Ohio remains pending if the justices wish to delve further into the matter before the upcoming elections.

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch, however, would have dismissed the North Carolina case due to intervening state court actions.

Former President Barack Obama, in a rare public comment on a court decision, commended the outcome. He described the ruling as a resounding rejection of the far-right theory propagated by election deniers and extremists aiming to undermine democracy. Obama emphasized that the decision clarifies that courts can continue safeguarding voters’ rights in North Carolina and throughout the nation.

Conversely, the leader of a Republican redistricting group expressed satisfaction with the court’s clarification regarding state courts’ limitations. Adam Kincaid, president and executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, stated that the decision should serve as a warning to state courts that tend to exceed the constitutional boundaries of judicial review. He deemed it an initial positive step toward curbing recent overreaches by state courts.

Derek Muller, an elections expert and law professor at the University of Iowa, noted that the ruling leaves some leeway to challenge state court decisions on federal election matters, but such cases are likely to be infrequent. Muller added that the vast majority of state court decisions affecting federal elections are expected to continue without any changes.

The North Carolina case garnered significant attention because four conservative justices had indicated their inclination to restrict the power of state courts in elections for president and Congress. Opponents of this notion, known as the independent legislature theory, argued that a robust ruling favoring North Carolina Republicans could have wide-ranging effects beyond the state’s redistricting.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law estimated that over 170 state constitutional provisions, more than 650 state laws delegating election policy-making authority to state and local officials, and numerous regulations, including polling place locations, could be at stake.

In December, the justices heard arguments in an appeal by Republican leaders in the North Carolina Legislature. The Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court had blocked their attempts to draw heavily partisan congressional districts, asserting that the GOP’s map violated the state Constitution.

During the arguments, which spanned almost three hours, the justices seemed reluctant to issue a sweeping ruling. Both liberal and conservative justices appeared to challenge the core argument of the challenge, which sought to eliminate state courts’ power to strike down gerrymandered congressional district maps drawn by legislatures based on state constitutional violations.

As North Carolina prepares for a new round of redistricting, it is anticipated that a map favoring Republicans will be produced. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper applauded Tuesday’s decision but implicitly acknowledged that it does not prevent Republican-controlled legislatures from drawing a congressional map that benefits their party.

Governor Cooper, who lacks the authority to block redistricting plans approved by lawmakers under state law, warned that Republican legislators in North Carolina and across the country continue to pose a significant threat to democracy by enacting laws that manipulate elections for partisan gain and interfere with the freedom to vote.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about elections

What was the Supreme Court’s ruling in the North Carolina case?

The Supreme Court ruled that state courts have the authority to limit the actions of legislatures in federal redistricting and elections. They upheld the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision that deemed a congressional districting plan excessively partisan under state law.

Did the Supreme Court suggest any limitations on state court oversight of elections?

Yes, the Supreme Court indicated that there could be limits on state court efforts to police elections for Congress and president. They emphasized that while state courts can apply state constitutional restraints, federal courts must not abandon their duty to exercise judicial review.

How did the justices vote in the Supreme Court ruling?

The ruling was made by a 6-3 vote, with the majority of justices upholding the decision by North Carolina’s top court. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch would have dismissed the case due to intervening state court action.

What was the significance of this ruling?

This ruling rejected arguments by North Carolina Republicans that could have significantly impacted congressional and presidential races not only within the state but also nationwide. It clarified the power of state courts in federal redistricting and elections, while suggesting potential limitations on their oversight.

Are there any expected future cases related to this ruling?

Yes, the Supreme Court’s decision indicated that more election-related court cases on this issue are likely. There is also a pending redistricting case from Ohio, which the justices may consider before next year’s elections.

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LibertyLover June 28, 2023 - 12:46 am

ha! take that GOP! Supreme Court rejected their arguments in North Carolina case. now the state courts got some power. gonna be interesting to see how this affects elections in other states too.

PoliticsGeek June 28, 2023 - 12:41 pm

so there could be limits on state court oversight of elections. good or bad? hard to say, but it’s gonna be a hot topic for future cases. can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Jen83 June 28, 2023 - 12:58 pm

wow the Supreme Court ruled that state courts can limit actions of legislatures when it comes to federal elections. thats interesting, wonder what it means for other states.

ConstitutionDefender June 28, 2023 - 3:36 pm

Finally! Supreme Court said state courts can apply constitutional restraints. but federal courts gotta do their job too. we need checks and balances, people!

ElectionWatcher22 June 28, 2023 - 6:50 pm

whoa, this ruling could’ve had major impact on races for Congress and president. glad they upheld the decision on partisan districting. gotta keep an eye on those future cases though, they’re gonna keep us on our toes!


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