WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday sought additional updates on a landmark election case from North Carolina, signaling it may overrule a ruling on a broad theory that could overturn election law nationwide.
The brief court order required the parties involved to file new court documents regarding the impact of recent actions by the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The case before the justices, which was argued in December, is about whether the North Carolina Supreme Court had the power last year to throw out congressional districts that drew Republicans.
Since then, the North Carolina Supreme Court has flipped from Democratic to Republican control, and the new majority has moved to revisit some of the earlier rulings. Most notably, the state court last month said it would review whether the Republican-drawn districts were illegal along with another voter ID case. Oral arguments in the North Carolina court are scheduled for March 14.
Thursday’s order asked North Carolina Republicans, groups that challenged the maps, and the Biden administration to weigh in by March 20 on what effect the state court’s actions should have on the Supreme Court’s review of the dispute Court. The justices could potentially conclude that subsequent developments in North Carolina mean the case before them is now moot, meaning no ruling is required.
The appeal by North Carolina Republicans led by Tim Moore, the speaker of the state House of Representatives, asked the US Supreme Court, which has a conservative 6-3 majority, to embrace an obscure legal argument called the doctrine of “independent state legislature”. , which could strip state courts of the power to strike down certain election laws enacted by state legislatures.
The independent legislature argument rests on language in the Constitution that says the election rules “shall be determined in each state by its legislature.”
Proponents of the theory, which has never been upheld by the Supreme Court, say the language supports the idea that when it comes to federal election rules, legislatures have the final authority under state law, potentially regardless of potential limitations imposed by state constitutions.
In last year’s ruling, the state court ruled that the 14 congressional districts — which Republicans drew to maximize the influence of Republican voters in a state hotly contested by both major parties — were “illegal partisan gerrymanders.”