North Carolina redistricting case allows justices to decide who has power to dictate election rules

"I think this Court is ready to rein in judges and bureaucrats," J. Christian Adams said.

Updated: July 5, 2022 - 6:39am

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The U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear a North Carolina redistricting case may have significant repercussions for the election-regulating powers of state legislatures across the country, says former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams. 

The Supreme Court decided on Thursday to hear the case of Moore v. Harper next term, in which North Carolina GOP House Speaker Timothy Moore is asking that the principle of the "independent state legislature" be affirmed. Anchored in the U.S. Constitution, the principle assigns state legislators sole and "independent" authority to set rules for federal elections within their states, without state judges or the governor interfering or providing oversight. 

The case that SCOTUS has decided to hear concerns the congressional redistricting map passed by North Carolina's Republican state Legislature, which the state Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional. In North Carolina, the governor is a Democrat, and the state Supreme Court has a narrow Democratic majority. 

Adams, president of Public Interest Legal Foundation, told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Thursday that the Supreme Court taking this case is "gigantic."

"It's one of the biggest cert grants that I can think of since Shelby v. Holder, which, of course, related to oversight by the Justice Department of every state election law," Adams said. "And I think it's indicative of a court that has gotten a nasty whiff the last couple of terms of government overreach. Whether it's, you know, the EPA, or whether it's the Justice Department, I think this court is ready to rein in judges and bureaucrats."

Hogan Gidley, the director of the Center for Election Integrity at the America First Policy Institute, told the "Just the News, Not Noise" TV show on Friday that "moving forward," the case "could be quite consequential."

The people of North Carolina "are fired up about election integrity," said the former Trump administration spokesman. "It's their number one issue, and every time the Legislature makes a move, the governor vetoes a particular bill, or [these] courts step in and ruin whatever the legislative branch tried to do. They did it in so many cases, redistricting was one of them."

After the state Legislature redrew the redistricting map twice following the state Supreme Court declaring it unconstitutional, Gidley explained, "the court then said, 'Not only is your map unconstitutional, now we, the Supreme Court of the state of North Carolina, we're going to draw the map for you.' That is a complete overreach by the court system in that state."

In states where Democratic governors are vetoing election integrity reforms adopted by Republican legislatures — measures such as voter ID and ending mass mailing of absentee ballots — Moore v. Harper may help resolve those issues "when it comes to setting up qualifications," explained Adams.

"I think it really sets up the awareness by this Court about who should have power," said Adams, noting how the Supreme Court decided this term that the North Carolina state Legislature was allowed to intervene in cases regarding laws that the Democratic attorney general wouldn't defend. "[T]he Founders put the deepest reservoir of power in this country with the state legislatures — that's who they really, really trusted with power more than anybody else." 

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