Supreme Court hears case considering state legislatures’ authority over elections process

By Casey Harper | The Center Square

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in Moore v. Harper, a case that could have major implications on state legislatures’ control of their elections free of federal interference.

In question in the case is the interpretation of part of Article I of the Constitution. Article I says that state legislatures have the authority to make rules around the “Times, Places and Manner” of congressional elections.

Courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture

Now at the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys for lawmakers argue the Constitution explicitly gives the power over elections to state legislatures, regardless of what the state courts rule.

As The Center Square previously reported, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina argue in a brief to the court that “the text of the Elections Clause provides the answer: it assigns state legislatures the federal function of regulating congressional elections.”

The case began when North Carolina lawmakers created a new congressional district map that critics say was gerrymandered, a tactic commonly used by whichever party is in power to draw district lines so that the voting demographics in each district are divided up to help one party win more seats.

Democrats challenged the map in court, and eventually North Carolina’s state Supreme Court, which is majority Democrat, ruled against Republicans’ map. Special masters were tasked to draw maps used in the 2022 midterms, and their intent — also through use of gerrymandering — to produce a 7-7 split of Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House was achieved.

Now at the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys for lawmakers argue the Constitution explicitly gives the power over elections to state legislatures, regardless of what the state courts rule.

The justices grilled both sides, with both liberal and conservative justices raising tough questions.

“If the North Carolina decision is permitted to stand, state courts will usurp the prerogatives of state legislatures,” said Bartlett Cleland, counsel for ALEC, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “As stated by the U.S. Supreme Court just two years ago, ‘The Constitution provides that state legislatures – not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, not other state officials – bear primary responsibility for setting election rules.'”

The ACLU took the opposite side, saying in a statement Wednesday that North Carolina “legislators are asking for the power to ignore their own state constitutions.”

“Our government is based on the idea that legislators and all government actors must act within the bounds of written constitutions created by the People,” ACLU said in a statement. “The Supreme Court must uphold the rule of law in our federal elections. Our democracy is at stake.”

Images courtesy of Supreme Court of the United States and (Wikimedia Commons/Public domain)

13 thoughts on “Supreme Court hears case considering state legislatures’ authority over elections process

  1. The U.S. Constitution states, the legislature of each sovereign state is the sole entity to make the rules and regulations regarding state and federal elections

    The Secretary of State certifies only the correctness of the RESULTS of the elections.

    • The Constitution says:

      “Article I, Section 4, Clause 1: The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”

  2. The Republican Supreme Court members may hand the Democrats a big gift. In two big Democratic states–California and New York–congressional districts were drawn by an independent commission (California) and a judge (New York) who overturned a partisan map drawn by the Democratic legislature. If independent commissions and judge drawn districts are unconstitutional then it goes to very Democratic legislatures in those two states. This could mean eight more Democrats in California and four more in California. Much more than the GOP will gain in North Carolina. Be careful what you wish for.

  3. So our founding fathers wrote our document that has survived for over 250 years,
    and now the DemocRATs, think they have a better idea, yes crooks are in charge
    and they’ll do whatever to stay way, they’ll bend or break every common sense rule !!

    The Constitution, a 250-year-old document, if followed will remain this countries
    legal precedent ……………………………..Not the DNC.

  4. Re: “The founders knew it was harder to corrupt one system than several systems. ”

    I think you meant to say the opposite – ‘… it’s harder to corrupt several systems than to corrupt one systems.’

    • In Federalist 59, Alexander Hamilton acknowledges that giving the state legislatures such power might be a problem but it is better in the long run in framing a federalist relationship:

      “So far as that construction may expose the Union to the possibility of injury from the State legislatures, it is an evil; but it is an evil which could not have been avoided without excluding the States, in their political capacities, wholly from a place in the organization of the national government. If this had been done, it would doubtless have been interpreted into an entire dereliction of the federal principle; and would certainly have deprived the State governments of that absolute safeguard which they will enjoy under this provision.”

      Further, in the same paper, with the Senate chosen by state legislatures, Hamilton averred that this would also be a protection against a state acting contrary to federal interests:

      “I shall not deny, that there is a degree of weight in the observation, that the interests of each State, to be represented in the federal councils, will be a security against the abuse of a power over its elections in the hands of the State legislatures.”

      • Still concerned about the possibility of the Congress interfering in elections, an amendment was introduced in August, 1789. Debate was lively but the measure failed 23 ayes to 28 noes. The wording of the amendment would have given the states much more influence in this area of elections:

        “Congress shall not alter, modify, or interfere in the times, places, or manner of holding elections of Senators, or Representatives, except when any State shall refuse or neglect, or be unable, by invasion or rebellion, to make such election.”

  5. The Constitution is clear only the state legislatures can make the election laws for their states. The founders knew it was harder to corrupt one system than several systems. This is why the Commiecrats are pushing voting laws that have one system of voting that they can manipulate.

    The reason why the 2020 election was illegitimate was because five states did not follow the election laws their legislations put in place. This is why the 2020 election was contested. This is the reason for the Jan.6th protests.

    I suggest watching Tucker Carlson’s interview of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gabelman on Fox Nation. The corruption was rampant in five states.

    • Yes, Jay thank you for bringing it to my attention. What I meant to point out The founders knew it was harder to corrupt several systems than one system.

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