SCOTUS Seems Likely to Take Up Case That Could Recognize States’ Power to Regulate Elections

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The Supreme Court seems likely to accept a new election law case that Republicans hope will recognize what they say is the preeminent constitutional authority of state legislatures to set the rules for redistricting and congressional and presidential elections, as well as curb the power of state courts to intervene in such disputes.

“The U.S. Constitution is crystal clear: state legislatures are responsible for drawing congressional maps, not state court judges, and certainly not with the aid of partisan political operatives,” Tim Moore, a Republican who is the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, said in March when he launched an appeal of his state Supreme Court’s order redrawing the state’s electoral map against the wishes of the state’s GOP-majority legislature.

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will reaffirm this basic principle and will throw out the illegal map imposed on the people of North Carolina by its highest court. It is time to settle the elections clause question once and for all.”

The case is Moore v. Harper, court file 21-1271; a petition filed on March 17 that was preceded by an emergency application seeking to stay a Feb. 14 ruling by the Supreme Court of North Carolina that required the state to modify its existing congressional election districts for the 2022 primary and general elections. Respondent Rebecca Harper is one member of a group of 25 individual North Carolina voters.

On March 7, the Supreme Court turned away (pdf) the stay application. In an opinion concurring in the denial of the stay, Justice Brett Kavanaugh stated that the high court “has repeatedly ruled that federal courts ordinarily should not alter state election laws in the period close to an election.”

The petition (pdf) was scheduled to be considered by the justices on June 16. The court is next scheduled to announce decisions on pending petitions on June 21. For a petition to be granted, at least four of the nine justices must agree.

By Matthew Vadum

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