Supreme Court weighs ‘most important case’ on democracy

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court is about to face a new election case, a Republican-led challenge the justices are calling for a new ruling that could significantly increase the power of state lawmakers over elections for Congress and the presidency.

The court will hear arguments Wednesday in a North Carolina case where Republican efforts to heavily favor congressional districts were blocked by a Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court because the GOP card violated the state constitution.

A map drawn by the court gave seven seats for each party in last month’s midterm elections in highly competitive North Carolina.

The question for the judges is whether the provision in the U.S. Constitution that gives state legislators the power to make rules about the “times, places, and manner” of congressional elections keeps state courts out of the process.

“This is the most important case about American democracy — and for American democracy — in the history of the country,” said former federal judge Michael Luttig, a prominent conservative who has joined the legal team that overturned the court’s decision. North Carolina defends.

The Republican leaders of the North Carolina legislature told the Supreme Court that the “carefully drawn lines of the Constitution place the regulation of federal elections in the hands of the state legislature, Congress, and no one else.”

Three conservative justices have already expressed some support for the idea that the state court erroneously usurped powers given by the constitution when it comes to federal elections. A fourth has written in favor of limiting the power of state courts in this area.

But the Supreme Court has never invoked the independent state legislature theory. However, it was mentioned in a separate opinion by three conservatives in the Bush v. Gore case that settled the 2000 presidential election.

If the courts recognized it now, opponents of the concept argue, the effects could be much broader than just redistribution.

According to the Brennan Center, the most powerful ruling for Republicans in North Carolina would pass more than 170 state constitutional provisions, more than 650 state laws that delegate the authority to make election policies to state and local officials, and thousands of regulations down to the location of polling places can undermine. for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Luttig, who advised former Vice President Mike Pence that he did not have the power to reject electoral votes after the 2020 election is one of many prominent conservatives and Republicans who have taken issue with the broad claim that lawmakers cannot be challenged in state courts when making decisions about federal elections, including redistribution by Congress.

That group includes former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, law professor Steven Calabresi, a founder of the conservative Federalist Society, and Benjamin Ginsberg, a longtime attorney for Republican candidates and the party.

“Unfortunately, due to continued and widespread attempts to sow mistrust and spread disinformation, confidence in our elections is at a low ebb,” Ginsberg wrote in a petition to the Supreme Court. “The version of independent state legislature theory advanced by petitioners in this case risks making a bad situation much worse, exacerbating the current moment of political polarization and further undermining confidence in our elections.”

The arguments take place one day after the final game of the 2022 midterm elections, the second round of the Georgia Senate between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

In that contest, state courts ruled in favor of Democrats being allowed to vote on the Saturday before the election, despite Republicans’ objections.

Jason Snead, of the conservative Honest Elections Project, said the case is an opportunity for the Supreme Court to rein in out-of-control state courts urged by Democratic lawyers to effectively create new rules for voting, including Georgia’s example .

“We’ve seen a fairly widespread effort to use courts to rewrite election laws if those laws don’t fit partisan agendas,” Snead said, speaking to reporters. “That’s not something we want to see if it’s against the constitution.”

He is one of those in favor of the Supreme Court’s intervention, stating that the case does not pose a “threat to democracy”.

The judges can instead write narrow opinions that place limits on state courts without distorting the choices New York and other states have made to limit partisan redistribution, a group of New York voters wrote in a lawsuit.

The New Yorkers implicitly recognize that if the court gives state legislators more power over drawing congressional lines, the Republicans won’t necessarily benefit.

During the last redistribution cycle, states that used independent redistribution commissions instead of legislatures were largely Democratic dominated. Committees drew 95 House seats in states with Democratic legislatures and governors, as opposed to just 12 in states with GOP control. A ruling giving the legislature ultimate power over redistribution could wipe out those committees and allow Democrats to redraw much of the House map.

“The bottom line is that the impact of this fringe theory would be dire,” said former Attorney General Eric Holder, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. “It could unleash a wave of gerrymandering from both sides.”

Even less dramatic changes don’t necessarily lead to a tilt of the GOP on a national redistribution map that was essentially fought to a draw, and where state court rulings cost Democrats about as many house seats as Republicans.

The Supreme Court declined to go into the North Carolina case in March, allowing the districts prepared by the court to be used this year.

Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas disagreed. Writing for the three, Alito said, “There must be a limit to the power of state courts to counter actions by state lawmakers when they prescribe rules for holding federal elections. I think it is likely that the plaintiffs will succeed in demonstrating that the North Carolina Supreme Court has overstepped those boundaries.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh has written separately about the need for federal courts to oversee the actions of state courts when it comes to federal elections.

Chief Justice John Roberts’ record on the matter gives both sides some hope. In 2015, he wrote a strongly dissenting opinion on the court’s decision to maintain an independent redistribution commission in Arizona.

Roberts wrote that the Constitution does not allow “a state to exclude ‘the legislature’ completely from redistribution. ”

But in 2019, Roberts wrote the court’s opinion that the federal courts were closed to partisan gerrymandering claims, but the well-known state courts remained open. “Provisions in state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidelines for state courts to apply,” he wrote, in an opinion joined by Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Thomas.

The court’s other conservative judge, Amy Coney Barrett, has no track record in this area.

In North Carolina, another round of redistricting is expected to take place next year, yielding a map with more Republican districts regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.

In last month’s election, voters flipped the Supreme Court’s majority by electing two new Republican justices, giving the GOP a 5-to-2 lead and making it likely, though not certain, that the court will see a map of more Republican districts. will maintain.

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Associated Press writers David A. Lieb in Jefferson City, Missouri, Nicholas Riccardi in Denver, and Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina contributed to this report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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