RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that began in North Carolina but could impact elections across the country.
The case, Moore v. Harper, stems from the most recent battle over how the state legislature redrew electoral districts and looks at how much of a check state courts can have over lawmakers as they regulate federal elections.
The Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court found that Republicans in the General Assembly unconstitutionally gerrymandered the state’s 14 Congressional districts in an effort to give Republican candidates an advantage in winning seats. The court also rejected the legislature’s attempt to redraw those districts and ultimately adopted its own map drawn by outside experts. In this year’s election, seven Republicans and seven Democrats won seats in Congress.
“This case is so important because I care about fair elections. And, really, I’m fundamentally concerned about polarization and extremism that we’ve seen in our politics,” said Becky Harper, who’s the name respondent in the case. She works in real estate and is a board member of Common Cause North Carolina, which filed a lawsuit last year against Republican lawmakers.
Harper noted the long history of state leaders from both parties gerrymandering legislative districts, but she said she’s especially concerned about the theory Republicans are arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
They’re advancing the “independent state legislature” theory, making the case that under the Constitution, state lawmakers have the sole authority to establish the “times, place and manner” of federal elections. A decision in the case could impact not just the redistricting process but voting rights laws as well.
Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said, “This wacky, extreme and dangerous theory will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s shameful that North Carolina has to be front and center on what is being called the greatest threat to our democracy.”
Members of Common Cause NC and other groups boarded a bus Tuesday afternoon to travel to Washington for the arguments on Wednesday.
Jeanette Doran, executive director of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, said she thinks the state Supreme Court “went too far” in how it handled the case.
“Everyone needs to know their limits, including Supreme Court justices. And, I think in this instance, they just didn’t know their limits,” she said.
Doran argued state legislators, who are elected every two years, are “more immediately accountable and responsible to the people” than state Supreme Court judges who are elected to eight-year terms.
“It’s not going to become a free-for-all and legislators will get to do whatever they want. We’ll still have U.S. and state constitutional restrictions,” she said. “All of the sky-is-falling kind of hyperbole that we’re hearing from those who are critical of the legislature and their arguments, I think that’s really grossly unwarranted.”