The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case that opponents say will destroy democracy. The case is called “Moore v Harper” and it rests on an argument that state legislatures have authority to control federal election rules, as outlined in the US Constitution. From Mitch Kokai at the Carolina Journal:
Here’s the question state lawmakers presented to the nation’s highest court: “Whether a State’s judicial branch may nullify the regulations governing the ‘Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives … prescribed … by the Legislature thereof,’ and replace them with regulations of the state courts’ own devising, based on vague state constitutional provisions purportedly vesting the state judiciary with power to prescribe whatever rules it deems appropriate to ensure a ‘fair’ or ‘free’ election.”
A three-judge trial court panel agreed that lawmakers had drawn a map clearly favoring Republicans. But the bipartisan panel also ruled unanimously that nothing within the state’s constitution or legal history blocked legislators from using partisanship in the map-drawing process.
The state Supreme Court disagreed. With a 4-3 party-line vote, the court’s Democratic majority threw out the map. Justices gave lawmakers suggestions, but no firm rules, for how to avoid excessive partisanship with a revised map. The high court returned the case to the trial court.
The three-judge trial panel then tossed out the legislature’s revised map. Judges substituted their own map for the 2022 election cycle. The state Supreme Court did nothing to block that decision.
Lawmakers take direct aim at the state Supreme Court’s Democratic justices, who called on trial court judges to oversee the mapmaking process.
“Rather than setting forth a determinate legal standard, the state supreme court remanded to the trial court to conduct the quintessentially political task of applying ‘some combination’ of various partisanship metrics, … yet the supreme court refused to specify which of these ‘set of metrics’ should actually be used to ‘demonstrate or disprove the existence of an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander,’” lawmakers argued.
Legislative leaders note that the N.C. Supreme Court based its ruling against partisan gerrymandering on state constitutional provisions that say nothing about election maps.
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