The Organization of the Election in Debate at the Supreme Court of the United States

The race for the White House and the US Congress could be disrupted if the nine justices decide to let the legislatures of the 50 states organize these federal elections as they wish.

On Wednesday, December 7, the Supreme Court of the United States examines an election law case that arouses strong fear on the left – but not only – because it could revolutionize the organization of polls for the White House and Congress. The hearing will focus on a new legal theory proposed by North Carolina Republican congressmen that, if passed, would give lawmakers in all 50 states free rein to organize federal elections.

Postal voting, office hours, documents to be produced to be registered on the electoral rolls…: The constitution leaves it to the legislatures of each state to determine “time, place and procedure” polls. However, their laws are subject to review by local courts and possible veto by their state governor. That’s what elected officials in North Carolina want to change. For them, the constitution is “puts the regulation of federal elections in the hands of state legislatures and no one else”.

This so-called theory “independent state legislatures” reach “never been approved by the Supreme Court, although it has been in circulation for some time”, noted attorney Amy Mason Saharia during a presentation on the case to the Cato Law Institute. Four of its nine judges have expressed interest in this reading “and there is a chance that the Court will adopt this doctrine”according to Me Saharia.

The Democratic governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, believes in such a closure “could fundamentally transform American democracy”already weakened by former President Donald Trump’s attempt to reverse his defeat in the 2020 election. “Our democracy is a fragile ecosystem that needs checks and balances to survive”he writes in a column published by New York Times. Accusing his state’s elected Republicans of having “manipulated the electoral process for political gain”the governor was pleased that local law was able to block their efforts.

One of these battles is at the heart of the case before the Supreme Court. When the 2020 census saw an increase in North Carolina’s population, the state gained an additional seat in the House of Representatives. Its parliamentarians then redrew the contours of the constituencies. In February, their map was struck down by the state Supreme Court, which ruled that it favored the Republican Party by lumping Democratic voters into certain areas to dilute their vote elsewhere. Another map didn’t seem fairer, so the local high court appointed an independent expert to deal with it.

This extremist interpretation of the constitution would help local elected officials disenfranchise some voters, divide constituencies as they see fit, and potentially sabotage election results. »

Sophia Lin Lakin, ACLU

Lawmakers in North Carolina then turned to the U.S. Supreme Court, accusing the local judiciary of usurping their role. Its sages refused to intervene immediately, and the pundit’s map performed well in November’s midterm elections, allowing seven representatives from each party to be elected. But the court wanted to deal with the substantive issue.

In the run-up to the hearing, President Joe Biden’s administration, Democratic state and senators, law professors and every major civil rights association (ACLU, NAACP, ADL, HRW) wrote to the court to dissuade her from adopting the new theory. “This extremist interpretation of the Constitution would help local elected officials disenfranchise some voters, divide constituencies as they see fit, and potentially sabotage election results”Sophia Lin Lakin of the ACLU explained to the press.

Our political system would suffer greatly if the slaughter of constituencies got out of hand. »

Former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Republican Party ruled “absurd” this alarmist discourse. Evidence North Carolina’s Elected Justice “will not give carte blanche to state legislators”, whose work can always be challenged in federal courts, he invoked in an argument sent to the high court. But in the conservative ranks, the theory is not unanimous. “Our political system would suffer greatly if the slaughter of constituencies got out of hand”assessed the former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger in particular.

The court must deliver its decision before 30 June.

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