SCOTUS Delivers Big Voting Setback to GOP

6-3 ruling says states don't have absolute power to set federal election rules
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2023 10:06 AM CDT
SCOTUS Rejects Controversial Theory on Voting Rules
The Supreme Court is seen on April 21 in Washington.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday put a major check on state powers when it comes to setting federal election rules. In its 6-3 ruling, one of the most closely watched of this term, the justices rejected the controversial "independent state legislature" doctrine, reports Politico. The doctrine, advanced by conservatives, argues that states have unchecked power to set their own election rules, including the drawing of partisan congressional maps, per the Washington Post. The court disagreed. The Constitution "does not exempt state legislatures from the ordinary constraints imposed by state law," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion.

A ruling to the contrary could have "radically reshaped how federal elections are conducted," per the New York Times. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented. The case in question, Moore v. Harper, is out of North Carolina, where the state Supreme Court struck down a redrawn congressional map as excessively partisan, per the AP. Republicans in the state invoked the doctrine—described by Politico as a "once-fringe" idea—to argue the state court had no right to do so. They cited the Constitution's Election Clause, which states, "The times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof."

In their view, that means state courts have no say over what state legislatures do on the matter. But "the Elections Clause does not insulate state legislatures from the ordinary exercise of state judicial review," wrote Roberts, per the Hill. The White House had warned that embracing the theory would "wreak havoc in the administration of elections across the nation." (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)

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