In a threat to democracy nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted North Carolina Republican state legislators’ petition to review the state Supreme Court’s redistricting ruling. That decision came in our successful lawsuit challenging legislators’ gerrymandered maps, NCLCV v Hall. At the SCOTUS level, this case will be known as Moore v Harper. Justices will hear arguments this fall.
Our attorney Zach Schauf responded to SCOTUS taking up this case by saying “it is about more than gerrymandering in North Carolina. It concerns a core principle from the earliest days of our Republic – that state laws governing federal elections are subject to the constraints that the people wrote into their state constitutions. We look forward to defending that fundamental tenet of democracy in the Supreme Court.“
Court observers are concerned that the court’s 6-3 rightwing majority may use this as a chance to strip state courts of their ability to strike down gerrymandered congressional district maps. Legislative leaders are seeking to advance the radical and ignorant “independent state legislature theory.” This theory argues the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures supremacy over federal elections, unchecked by the state constitutional guardrails the people and, in many cases, legislators themselves wrote, or by the state courts which exist to interpret those constitutions.
This theory has no bearing in rational constitutional interpretation or precedent, and if embraced by this court, could have disastrous ramifications for our democracy. As well as removing any check on their power to gerrymander U.S. House maps, it could allow them to overrule the people’s vote in presidential elections. Former President Trump’s lawyers invoked the theory in multiple cases seeking to overturn the 2020 election. They were unsuccessful then, but this case could change that for the next election.
There is a loophole to this theory. The Constitution specifies that Congress can overrule state legislatures by setting rules for federal elections. Tell your members of Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote: John Lewis Act now! Among other important provisions, it would set rules for how states draw maps going forward.
It is not hyperbole to say that when we step before the court this fall, we will be arguing to save American democracy itself. Help us keep up this fight!