The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last week on the most important election law case in decades, and NCLCV was there to defend our democracy.
The case is Moore v. Harper, an appeal filed by North Carolina Republicans that seeks to give state legislatures near-total control over federal election laws, including but not limited to Congressional redistricting. NCLCV is one of the plaintiffs in the case being appealed.
In that state court case, the N.C. Supreme Court determined that the Congressional redistricting map adopted by Republicans in the state legislature was an extreme partisan gerrymander which violated North Carolina’s state constitution—specifically, its clause requiring that elections be “free and fair.” The Court reasoned that a map drawn specifically to give the supporters of one party wildly disproportionate representation in elected office deprived other voters of a fair opportunity to make their voices heard in elections.
“We believe every voter has the right to cast a ballot for the environment in free and fair elections and have their voice heard,” said Dan Crawford, Director of Governmental Affairs for NCLCV. “That’s why we filed our lawsuit in November 2021 challenging the legislature’s gerrymandered districts. Fortunately, checks and balances prevailed: The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the legislature had violated our state constitution and that the gerrymanders must be replaced. Moore v. Harper is about reaffirming a fundamental principle—that constitutional checks and balances apply to state legislatures and federal-election laws. Winning this case is vital to ensuring free and fair elections, which is ultimately how lawmakers are held accountable and how our organization stands up for clean air and water for the people of North Carolina.”
Experienced legal observers said that the arguments and questions posed by members of the U.S. Supreme Court during last week’s hearing indicated a divided Court and an uncertain final ruling. Of the nine Justices on the Court, three clearly opposed the arguments offered on behalf of the Republican state legislators, while three others seemed to favor those arguments. The remaining three members of the Court appeared to be searching for ways to split the difference in some fashion.
Allison Riggs, an attorney and the co-executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, told reporters that the North Carolina legislators’ position during the oral arguments was extreme even when compared to what they had argued in their earlier briefings. “What I take away from today’s argument is that legislative leadership in North Carolina still wants the North Carolina constitution to be a meaningless piece of paper,” she said.
Genuinely conservative legal analysts criticize the so-called “independent state legislature” theory advanced by the Republican legislators in this case as without support in American constitutional law. “I do not believe there is any support whatsoever in the constitutional text or in the history of the framing of the Constitution that would support the most aggressive version of the independent state legislature theory that the petitioners are arguing for,” J. Michael Luttig, a Reagan administration lawyer and former U.S. Appeals Court judge, said last week.
A ruling in this case is expected some time next year before the Supreme Court’s October 2022 docket term concludes in June.