Supreme Court hears case on limits of state courts to intervene in Congressional map drawing

Supreme Court hears case on limits of state courts to intervene in Congressional map drawing
Supreme Court hears case on limits of state courts to intervene in Congressional map drawing(DC Bureau)
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 3:17 PM MST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The U.S. Supreme Court is considering Moore v. Harper. It’s a case out of North Carolina that centers around a state supreme court stepping in on partisan gerrymandering of congressional maps.

The Republican-controlled state legislature in North Carolina is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule its state court’s decision to toss the maps it deemed unfair, and replace them with a temporary map.

The lawmakers’ opponents say the argument presented at the court may have sweeping ramifications on laws regulating federal elections. The rationale North Carolina’s state legislature is using could set a new precedent according to legal experts. A precedent where state legislatures could enjoy near complete state-level power to regulate federal elections. They argue that’s what the U.S. Constitution grants with its elections clause.

That clause states, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof;”

During Wednesday’s arguments, justices questioned the potential ramifications.

Justice Elena Kagan said, “This is a theory with big consequences.”

Kagan was speaking to David Thompson, the lawyer presenting the case for North Carolina’s legislature.

“If the legislature engages in the most extreme forms of gerrymandering, there is no state constitutional remedy for that,” Kagan said. “This is a proposal that gets rid of the normal checks and balances on the way big governmental decisions are made in this country.”

Thompson responded, “Our position is the checks and balances do apply, but they come from the federal constitution and the panoply of federal laws like the Voting Rights Act and other statutes.”

Justice Clarence Thomas questioned lawyers for those who say the North Carolina Supreme Court was right to strike down the congressional maps.

Thomas said, “What is the source of the authority for the state of North Carolina Supreme Court to be involved in a federal election?”

Neal Katyal, one of the lawyers presenting the case for the respondents, said, “the North Carolina court is interpreting the election clause’s powers, and the question is whether or not they have misread it or not.”

George Washington University law professor Paul Schiff Berman said the Supreme Court would need to set a new precedent to rule in North Carolina’s favor. He said, “it would be just a tremendous upending of our general constitutional structure, our democratic system, and hundreds of years of precedent for the Supreme Court.”

The court is expected to hand down its ruling by summer of 2023.