Jun 28, 2023 - Politics

What the Moore v. Harper decision means for North Carolina elections

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen on June 27, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

North Carolina Republicans, who have been on a winning streak since seizing a majority on the state Supreme Court and a supermajority in the legislature, faced a loss Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling against their attempt to gain sole authority over state elections.

Driving the news: In a 6-3 decision on the case Moore v. Harper, the justices determined state courts can strike down or weigh in on election laws set by the state's General Assembly.

Why it matters: The ruling in the case means that courts will largely remain a check on the legislature's power to draw political districts for federal elections and decide who can vote and what's required to do so.

Context: A group of North Carolina GOP lawmakers had asked the court to embrace a sweeping legal theory called the independent state legislature doctrine, which holds that state legislatures have absolute control over election rules.

  • Under the doctrine, even if a state legislature does something that would violate the state's constitution, the courts would have no ability to stop them.

The big picture: The court's ruling in the case — it's one of the highest profile cases of its term — resonates nationally, as it applies to state legislatures across the country.

  • It's also a rebuke to a conservative movement that has sought to block the courts from hearing election cases, Axios' Sam Baker writes.
  • Had that movement succeeded, federal elections could have been "radically reshaped," the New York Times reports.

But, but, but: In the short-term, the ruling may have little impact in North Carolina, where both the legislature and state Supreme Court are led by Republicans.

  • State lawmakers will redraw state legislative and congressional maps in the coming months, which they planned to do regardless of the court's ruling.

What's next: SCOTUS is set to issue another ruling in the coming days on race-conscious admissions at UNC and Harvard.

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