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Supreme Court to listen to case on election rule oversight

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A crosswalk signal is seen outside the U.S. Supreme Court constructing in Washington, June 27, 2022.

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it’s going to consider a case that might give state legislatures free rein in setting rules for federal elections, without state judicial oversight.

If the Supreme Court rules for North Carolina Republican plaintiffs within the case, it could give state legislatures, not state courts, the ultimate word on regulations set by the legislatures for elections of members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

That might be a dramatic change from the present situation, where state courts keep a check on changes in election rules to ensure they do not run afoul of state constitutions.

And it could be according to what supporters of former President Donald Trump argued in the course of the 2020 election after they opposed modifications in election rules imposed by state courts in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Justice Samuel Alito in March wrote, “This case presents an exceptionally necessary and recurring query of constitutional law” and “There could be little question that this query is of great national importance.”

Rick Hasen, an election law expert on the University of California at Irvine, told NBC News, “If the Supreme Court ruled for the plaintiffs, it “would radically alter the facility of state courts to rein in state legislatures that violate voting rights in federal elections.”

“It could essentially neuter the power of state courts to guard voters under provisions of state constitutions against infringement of their rights,” Hasen said.

The case referred to as Moore v. Harper shall be heard in October when the court begins its 2022 term.

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It pertains to a dispute over the drawing of lines for U.S. congressional districts in North Carolina by the state legislature. North Carolina’s Supreme Court rejected the design of the districts on the grounds they were gerrymandered to favor Republicans.

However the Republican plaintiffs, who’re in search of to have the district designs adopted, are difficult that ruling on the U.S. Supreme Court under what’s referred to as the “independent state legislature doctrine.”

That theory, which is predicated on an interpretation of the Elections Clause within the U.S. Structure, holds that state legislatures have the only authority to set rules for federal elections and that those decisions are usually not subject to review by a state court.

In March, the Supreme Court rejected a request on an emergency basis by the plaintiffs to permit the district maps as originally designed by the North Carolina legislature to be utilized in the upcoming congressional elections.

But three conservative justices said they might have allowed a stay of the state Supreme Court’s order blocking the districts: Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

Alito, in his written dissent to the choice in March, said, “This case presented a superb opportunity to contemplate the difficulty” of the extent of a state court’s authority to reject election rules passed by a legislature for federal elections.

“We could have to resolve this query ultimately, and the earlier we accomplish that, the higher,” Alito wrote in his dissent.

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