COURTS & LEGAL

Supreme Court rules state courts can play role in policing federal elections

Jun 27, 2023, 9:14 AM | Updated: 11:34 am

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on April 21, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)Cre...

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on April 21, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that North Carolina’s top court did not overstep its bounds in striking down a congressional districting plan as excessively partisan under state law.

The justices by a 6-3 vote rejected the broadest view of a case that could have transformed elections for Congress and president.

North Carolina Republicans had asked the court to leave state legislatures virtually unchecked by their state courts when dealing with federal elections.

But Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that “state courts retain the authority to apply state constitutional restraints when legislatures act under the power conferred upon them by the Elections Clause. But federal courts must not abandon their own duty to exercise judicial review.”

The high court did, though, suggest there could be limits on state court efforts to police elections for Congress and president.

The practical effect of the decision is minimal in that the North Carolina Supreme Court, under a new Republican majority, already has undone its redistricting ruling.

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch would have dismissed the case because of the intervening North Carolina court action.

Another redistricting case from Ohio is pending, if the justices want to say more about the issue before next year’s elections.

The North Carolina case attracted outsized attention because four conservative justices had suggested that the Supreme Court should rein in state courts in their oversight of elections for president and Congress.

Opponents of the idea, known as the independent legislature theory, had argued that the effects of a robust ruling for North Carolina Republicans could be much broader than just redistricting and exacerbate political polarization.

Potentially at stake were more than 170 state constitutional provisions, over 650 state laws delegating authority to make election policies to state and local officials, and thousands of regulations down to the location of polling places, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

The justices heard arguments in December in an appeal by the state’s Republican leaders in the legislature. Their efforts to draw congressional districts heavily in their favor were blocked by a Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court because the GOP map violated the state constitution.

court-drawn map produced seven seats for each party in last year’s midterm elections in highly competitive North Carolina.

The question for the justices was whether the U.S. Constitution’s provision giving state legislatures the power to make the rules about the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections cuts state courts out of the process.

Former federal judge Michael Luttig, a prominent conservative who has joined the legal team defending the North Carolina court decision, said in the fall that the outcome could have transformative effects on American elections. “This is the single most important case on American democracy — and for American democracy — in the nation’s history,” Luttig said.

Leading Republican lawmakers in North Carolina told the Supreme Court that the Constitution’s “carefully drawn lines place the regulation of federal elections in the hands of state legislatures, Congress and no one else.”

During nearly three hours of arguments, the justices seemed skeptical of making a broad ruling in the case. Liberal and conservative justices seemed to take issue with the main thrust of a challenge asking them to essentially eliminate the power of state courts to strike down legislature-drawn, gerrymandered congressional district maps on grounds that they violate state constitutions.

In North Carolina, a new round of redistricting is expected to go forward and produce a map with more Republican districts.

KSL 5 TV Live

Courts & Legal

Handcuffs in a jail cell. (Ravell Call/Deseret News)...

Alexander Campbell

Davis County deputies arrest suspected serial child predator

After a multi-year investigation, a Payson resident is behind bars, having been arrested on suspicion of eight counts of sexual abuse of a child

7 days ago

A 8th District Court judge signed an execution warrant for Taberon Dave Honie on Monday, a man who ...

Karah Brackin

Death warrant signed for Cedar City man convicted of 1998 murder

The Utah Department of Corrections shared new details Tuesday about the execution warrant for Taberon Honie.

7 days ago

A West Jordan man accused of shooting and killing another man at a Halloween party in 2021 has been...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

West Jordan man found guilty in 2021 Halloween party homicide

A West Jordan man accused of shooting and killing another man at a Halloween party in 2021 has been found guilty of murder.

7 days ago

Springville police Officers preparing to break down the front door of Ruby Franke's Springville hom...

Michael Houck

Body camera shows Springville officers breaking into Ruby Franke’s home after children found in Ivins

Body camera footage shows the police response to Ruby Franke's Springville house after her two children were found emaciated and hurt in Ivins on Aug. 30, 2023. 

8 days ago

A 8th District Court judge signed an execution warrant for Taberon Dave Honie on Monday, a man who ...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Utah judge signs execution warrant for Cedar City man convicted in 1998 murder

A Utah judge signed an execution warrant Monday for Taberon Dave Honie, setting his date for lethal injection on Aug. 8.

8 days ago

Davis County School buses at the Bus Farm in Farmington on Friday, Sept. 13. (Matt Gade, Deseret Ne...

Tim Vandenack, KSL.com

Davis School District, ex-employee reach $143,558 settlement in discrimination suit

Davis School District officials and a former employee tasked with investigating racial harassment cases have reached a settlement to resolve the lawsuit she filed against the school system over alleged discrimination.

11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Supreme Court rules state courts can play role in policing federal elections