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Crucial N.C. Voting Rights case will come out of U.S. Supreme Court

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / July 8, 2022

It is the N.C. case that has most legal experts across the nation shaking in their shoes about what damage this conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court will do next.

The N.C. case is Moore v. Harper, and the question it raises is can state courts having anything to do with how disputes over federal elections are handled?

Why is this important? The Republican-led N.C. legislature did not agree with the Democratic majority N.C. Supreme Court in deciding against lawmakers earlier this year when it came to redistricting after the 2020 census, namely that it violated the N.C. Constitution. New, fairer maps were drawn as directed by the Democrat-led N.C. Supreme Court, and the primaries and fall elections are governed by those maps.

The GOP is banking on what’s called the independent state legislature (ISL) doctrine, a part of the U.S. Constitution’s Election Clause which some say gives state legislatures the power to set voting rules for federal office that state courts have absolutely no say in, and that power is absolute.

“The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof,” it says.

Legal experts say the N.C. ISL case is dangerous because if the U.S. High Court sees fit, state lawmakers here and across the country will be able to draw any gerrymandered congressional voting district lines they want, free of the nuisance of being challenged in their state’s court.

That would leave state courts toothless to protect voting rights in federal elections.

This interpretation of the constitution “could make it easier for state legislatures to suppress the vote, draw unfair election districts, enable partisan interference in ballot counting,” the Brennan Center for Justice tweeted.

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause N.C. called it a “radical power grab.”

With Republicans in charge of far more state legislatures than are Democrats, thus redrawing more voting districts than Democrats, the GOP will be able to break the kind of redistricting rules state courts would never allow them to break before.

How bad could it get? State legislatures could ignore the popular vote, and designate their own slate of presidential electors to go to Washington to certify the next president.

Yes, a ruling by the High Court could come in before the 2024 elections, giving the N.C. General Assembly and other state legislatures the power and “unlimited control” to pick who they want for president, not confirm who the majority of their state’s voters voted for.

Conservative justices Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch have already signaled in previous rulings that they support the ISL Doctrine.

“This case is not only critical to election integrity in North Carolina, but has implications for the security of elections nationwide,” N.C. Speaker Tim Moore said in a prepared statement. “On the heels of another victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, I am confident that this court recognizes what our State Supreme Court failed to recognize — that the United States Constitution explicitly gives the General Assembly authority to draw districts and that authority must be recognized.”

“This fall, the future of multiracial democracy is at stake,” said Allison Riggs, Co-Executive Director and Chief Counsel for Voting Rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which is representing Common Cause in the case. “In Moore, North Carolina lawmakers argue they essentially get a ‘free pass’ to violate state constitutional protections against partisan gerrymandering when drawing districts which undeniably hurt voters. We will vigorously fight these claims and instead advocate on behalf of North Carolinians to prove what the ‘independent state legislature theory’ has been all along — a fringe, desperate, and anti-democratic attack by a gerrymandered legislature.”

The case is scheduled to be heard this October when the U.S. Supreme Court begins a new term.


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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