Supreme Court on Tuesday Rejected a legal doctrine It would have radically reshaped how federal elections are conducted by giving state legislatures largely unchecked power to set all sorts of rules for federal elections and draw congressional maps skewed by partisan gerrymandering.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had a 6 to 3 vote to write the majority opinion. The Constitution, he said, “does not exempt state legislatures from the ordinary restraints imposed by state law.”
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch objected.
This case is about the doctrine of “Independent State Legislature”. This doctrine is based on a reading of the Constitution Election DivisionIt states, “The times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by its legislature.”
Proponents of the stronger form of the doctrine say that no other organ of state government — not courts, not governors, not election administrators, not independent commissions — can supersede the legislature’s actions in federal elections.
The case, Moore v. Harper, no. 21-1271, concerning a voting map drawn by the North Carolina Legislature that was initially rejected by the state’s Supreme Court as a partisan gerrymander. Experts said the map could yield a Congressional delegation of 10 Republicans and four Democrats.
State Court rejected the argument Adopting the doctrine of independent state legislatures, asserting that it is not competent to review the acts of state legislatures, “is repugnant to the sovereignty of the states, the authority of state constitutions, and the independence of state courts, and is absurd and dangerous in consequence.”
Last year, Republicans seeking to restore the legislative map asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. Urgent application The state court was incapacitated.
The justices rejected the request for immediate intervention, and the election in November was held under a map drawn by a state court-appointed expert. The resulting 14-member congressional delegation is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, roughly reflecting the state’s partisan divide.
Republican lawmakers appealed to the US Supreme Court. When the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in December, the justices appeared divided, if not divided, on the limits of the doctrine.
The makeup of the North Carolina Supreme Court flipped after the election in November, favoring Republicans by a 5-to-2 margin. A dissenting justice called the new majority a “shameful manipulation of the fundamental principles of our democracy and the rule of law.” Reverse trendThat said, the Legislature is free to draw gerrymandered voting districts as it sees fit.
Many observers expected the US Supreme Court to dismiss the case in light of that development. But Chief Justice Roberts ruled that the Supreme Court retained jurisdiction over the case.
When the Court closed the doors of federal courts to discriminatory gerrymandering claims Rucho v. Common cause In 2019, Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the court’s five most conservative members that state courts can take such cases — including against the backdrop of congressional redistricting.
“Our decision does not condone excessive partisan gerrymandering,” he wrote. “Our decision does not condemn the vacuous echoing of complaints about districting. For example, states have tackled the issue aggressively on multiple fronts. As well as anticipating and rejecting the free state legislature doctrine,” he wrote, “provisions in state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply.”
In 2015, in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the court ruled that Arizona’s voters had the right to make the process of drawing congressional district lines nonpartisan by creating an independent redistricting commission, though referred to as the “legislature.” Election Division.
“Nothing in that clause suggests, nor has this Court ever held, that a state legislature may prescribe regulations regarding the time, place and manner of holding federal elections in violation of the provisions of the state constitution,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. 2020, written in a majority opinion of 5 to 4 decision.