Lawmakers, advocates react to Supreme Court rejection of fringe election theory

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Tuesday, June 27, 2023
Reactions to Supreme Court rejection of fringe election theory
Lawmakers and advocates are reacting to the Supreme Court's decision in Moore v. Harper.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A landmark Supreme Court decision Tuesday affirmed that state lawmakers do not have the unchecked power to create election rules. Supporters of the decision are calling it a victory for voters.

Moore v. Harper ended in a 6-3 decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts. The Supreme Court sided with a group of North Carolina voters who challenged an attempt by state Republican lawmakers to circumvent a state court decision that struck down a new gerrymandered election map.

"This is a good decision that curbs some of the power of Republican state legislatures and affirms the importance of checks and balances," Gov. Roy Cooper said.

NC Speaker of the House Tim Moore, who is the Moore in Moore v. Harper released the following statement about the ruling:

"Today the United States Supreme Court has determined that state courts may rule on questions of state law even if it has an impact on federal elections law. Ultimately, the question of the role of state courts in congressional redistricting needed to be settled and this decision has done just that. I am proud of the work we did to pursue this case to the nation's highest court."

Conservatives were arguing the "independent state legislature" theory that they interpreted as state lawmakers having the ultimate power to regulate federal elections.

The theory if adopted, challengers said, would have removed key protections for voters nationwide and unleashed a dangerous and unprecedented scheme on the eve of the 2024 presidential election.

Roberts roundly repudiated the independent state legislature theory.

"A state legislature may not create congressional districts independently of requirements imposed by the state constitution with respect to the enactment of laws," he wrote.

The 6-3 opinion repudiated much of the "independent state legislature" theory.

The communications director for the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina-based think tank that tends to promote conservative views, spoke to ABC11 about the ruling.

"The bottom line for this ruling for North Carolina is practical impact probably not a lot. But the long term legal constitutional impact is going to be, as our legislature or any other legislature draws election maps in the future, their state courts are still going to be able to review those maps and make sure that the legislature complied with what their state constitutions say about how they have to act," Mitch Kokai said.

Voting rights advocates praised the decision as upholding a key protection for voters.

"By rejecting the independent state legislature theory, the Supreme Court preserved the vital role state courts play in protecting free elections and fair maps for the American people. This is a victory for our system of checks and balances, the cornerstone of American democracy," said former Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement.

Statement from Kathay Feng, Common Causes Vice President of Programs:

"Today's ruling is a victory for all Americans who stand for our democracy's promise of free and fair elections. Now Congress must act and pass long overdue protections for voters, so that we can put an end once and for all to the persistent attempts to undermine and restrict our right to vote."

Statement from Bob Phillips, Common Cause North Carolina's executive director:

"This is a historic victory for the people of North Carolina and for American democracy. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that state courts and state constitutions should serve as a critical check against abuses of power by legislators. Now, we must ensure our state courts fulfill their duty to protect our freedoms against attacks by extremist politicians."

Statement from Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Counsel for Voting Rights at Southern Coalition for Social Justice:

"The Supreme Court took an important and crucial step today in protecting our system of checks and balances. Today's decision will ensure that voters will continue to have the full protection of state constitutions against harmful and anti-democratic voter suppression and election manipulation."

Statement from Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells:

"I am proud to stand with Common Cause, the leading nonpartisan group in our nation devoted to protecting the right to vote. As we argued to the Supreme Court, the independent state legislature theory was contrary to precedent and would have called into question hundreds of state constitutional provisions and decisions. Today's ruling affirms the crucial role state courts play in overseeing federal elections."

Ari Savitzky, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, had the following reaction to today's Supreme Court ruling:

"The Supreme Court was right to reject the misbegotten independent state legislature theory. In our system, there is no room for a rogue legislature that can violate its own founding charter without any checks from other branches of government. This radical theory is totally contrary to the bedrock principle of checks and balances, and the court has correctly relegated it to the dustbin of history. The court's decision confirms the important role of state courts and state constitutions in ensuring fair elections and protecting the right to vote for all."