Patterico's Pontifications

6/27/2023

Supreme Court Rules In Election-Law Decision

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:35 am



[guest post by Dana]

Per SCOTUS majority, “state courts do not have free rein”:

In a major election-law decision, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that although the Constitution gives state legislatures the power to regulate federal elections, state courts can supervise the legislature’s exercise of that power. By a vote of 6-3, the court rejected the so-called “independent state legislature theory,” holding that the North Carolina Supreme Court did not violate the Constitution when it set aside a congressional map adopted by the state’s legislature.

In a press release issued shortly after the decision was announced, Bob Phillips, the executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, one of the challengers, called the ruling a “historic victory for the people of North Carolina and for American democracy. Today, the Supreme Court made clear that state courts and state constitutions should serve as a critical check against abuses of power by legislators.”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 6-3 opinion. In part:

“Federal courts must not abandon their duty to exercise judicial review.

When state legislatures act pursuant to their Elections Clause authority, they engage in lawmaking subject to the typical constraints on the exercise of such power…In sum, our precedents have long rejected the view that legislative action under the Elections Clause is purely federal in character, governed only by restraints found in the Federal Constitution.”

Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett joined Roberts in the majority.

–Dana

14 Responses to “Supreme Court Rules In Election-Law Decision”

  1. Hello.

    Dana (560c99)

  2. I think they were clear about a state court’s ability to hold the legislature to the state constitution (and federal law in general), but what is unclear to me is whether, and to what degree, the legislature can replace the legislature’s rules with its own.

    In short, the state court could strike down legislative districts that conflicted with superior law, but could they then decide to draw new districts themselves, or are they limited to sending the mess back to the legislature for a do-over?

    However unreasonable the 2020 Election Truthers were, there were more than a few cases where state courts imposed rules on the elections that were not enacted by the legislature. In at least one case (PA) the new rules violate their state constitution as well. When the court legislates from the bench, who holds them to the state constitution?

    I have to read the actual decision, so far I’ve only read Amy Howe’s write-up (linked in Dana’s post).

    SCOTUSblog is a treasure.

    Kevin M (2d6744)

  3. > but could they then decide to draw new districts themselves, or are they limited to sending the mess back to the legislature for a do-over?

    this probably depends on circumstance. strike down the districts on Aug 15, 2031, the legislature gets to do it again. strike down the districts on feb 22, 2032, leaving a situation where there are no legal districts (because, say, you lost a seat in Congress and can’t use the old districts even on an emergency basis), maybe the court gets to do it for reasons of speed and efficiency.

    there’s a real problem here about how to handle situations where the legislature is derelict in its duty and just doesn’t do its job. the state *has* to have a fallback in that situation.

    aphrael (5542ca)

  4. aphrael,

    I don’t think gaming the calendar is a good thing to allow. I prefer: If they strike it down when there is no time to correct, and we use the old districts while the legislature sorts it out.

    There were excesses in 2020 (mostly expanding absentee voting past state law and in at least one case, a state constitution) based on this “ticking bomb” scenario that should not be repeated. They probably had nothing to do with the eventual result, but “probably” really isn’t an adequate standard for significant elections. It can cause discord.

    And what do you mean when “the legislature is derelict” anyway? Doesn’t pass laws? Or doesn’t pass laws the majority of the court likes? This is how we get more politicization in the courts.

    Kevin M (2d6744)

  5. BTW, here in New Mexico, the Democrat Party sued early in 2020 to have absentee ballots sent to every registered voter. The (fairly liberal) state supreme court declined, saying that the law was clear that mail-in ballots needed to be requested.

    It was easy enough to do that voting turnout here was much like it was in California.

    Kevin M (2d6744)

  6. @4 you seem upset that more people voted in states that don’t do voter suppression. BTW thanks to supreme court upholding voting rights act, alabama and louisiana now have to allow 35% of their population who are black to be represented by candidates of their choice. Hopefully blacks and latinx in texas will be next.

    asset (813cc1)

  7. Kevin m – in a case where the state lost a congressional district, the old districts are not an option.

    aphrael (c0faa4)

  8. More courts usurping a role never granted to them and giving them the ability to create law that is exclusively a legislative ability.

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  9. @8 Courts at the behest of the corporate establishment step in to keep the democrat establishment from being discredited so they are a viable alternative to minorities joining as shock troops for the left. Its all about keeping the left at bey. Biden/clintons good for donor class and corporate deep state business opportunities. AOC and the squad not so much. Its all about no more dred scott decisions though they now have one on abortion. Conservatives say do it my way and consequences be damned! A political “damn the torpedos full speed ahead!” The corporate establishment would rather play it safe and not be stopped at a road block looking for conservative enemies of the people. You may not like gavin newsom or kathy hocul running the state ;but their are others you would like a lot less.

    asset (061087)

  10. Kevin m – in a case where the state lost a congressional district, the old districts are not an option.

    We are talking about throwing out the new plan and replacing it with a newer plan. Presumably the loss of a seat was already dealt with in the gerrymander (or whatever). They can use that for an election.

    But really, the issue you suggest is a court dawdling (or permitting plaintiffs to dawdle) so that there is an “emergency” that only the court can solve. This is like the fireman setting the fire. Not going to play.

    Kevin M (2d6744)

  11. Courts. Should. Not. Write. Law.

    How long will it take us to learn just how bad they are at it.

    Kevin M (2d6744)

  12. Asset,

    For my entire long effing life, I have lived in states where the Democrat Party has gerrymandered every legislative seat. They are still doing it. So don’t come talking to me about “voter suppression” until your side has clean hands.

    Kevin M (2d6744)

  13. New Mexico routinely has 55-45 breaks in statewide elections, but both houses of the legislature are 65%-35% Democrat. The Congressional delegation is all Democrats.

    That is what real voter suppression looks like.

    Kevin M (2d6744)

  14. New Mexico routinely has 55-45 breaks in statewide elections, but both houses of the legislature are 65%-35% Democrat. The Congressional delegation is all Democrats.

    That is what real voter suppression looks like.

    Kevin M (2d6744) — 6/28/2023 @ 1:22 am

    Current registration statistics for New Mexico:

    Democratic 44%

    Republican 31%

    Decline to State 22%

    Libertarian/Other 2%

    This is similar to California (D: 47% R: 24% Decline: 22% Other 7%), except that NM has a higher percentage of registered Republicans.

    I’m not certain how the NM results show voter suppression. It looks like the Decline to State voters break toward the Democrats.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)


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