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World News | Supreme Court rejects novel legislative theory, but leaves door open for 2024 election challenge


Streaks of light seen in California. (Photo credit: Video Grab)

WASHINGTON, June 28 (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a controversial legal theory that could change the way elections are conducted across the country, but opened the door to more limited challenges that could strengthen its Role in deciding voting disputes during elections. 2024 presidential election.

The court’s 6-3 decision on Tuesday advanced the most extreme version of the so-called independent state legislature theory, which holds that legislatures have absolute power to set federal election rules and cannot be second-guessed by state courts. The decision was cheered by voting rights groups.

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“We’ve pushed back the gravest legal threat our democracy faces today,” said Common Cause’s Kathay Feng, whose lawsuit against North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature raised the barrage of congressional districts. closed the case.

But for some of the theory’s critics, the danger has not quite passed.

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The court held that state courts must still act within “normal bounds” when reviewing federal election laws. That gives those who lost their election lawsuits in state court another set of tools to try to convince federal judges to overturn those rulings.

“They rejected a lot of extreme stuff, but there’s still a lot of room for ideological and partisan judgment,” said Rick Hasson, a UCLA law professor who filed an amicus brief in the case. , urging the court to dismiss the theory outright.

Conservatives who advocate limiting the role of state courts in federal elections agree with Hasson that the court did not address the question of when state courts need to intervene in federal elections. They warned that the issue may only be resolved in a last-minute challenge during the presidential election.

“Unfortunately, the emergency will be in 2024,” said Republican attorney Jason Torchinsky, who filed an amicus brief urging the court to adopt a more limited version of the theory.

The high court will decide this week whether to hear another case involving similar issues, an appeal by Ohio Republican lawmakers against two state Supreme Court rulings directing them to draw fair maps of Congress. The issue could arise as other state supreme courts overturn congressional maps, such as in Wisconsin, where Democrats hope a new liberal majority on the state court will reverse what they say is an unfair division of the Republican Party.

The independence of state legislatures stems from the provisions of the U.S. Constitution that stipulate the “time, place and manner” of elections for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Supporters see it as a sign that the founders want to give the legislature ultimate power in federal elections.

Conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist addressed the theory in the landmark 2000 Bush v. Gore case, noting the provision’s impact on whether the Florida Supreme Court could decide who would win the case. State presidential electors made restrictions.

The theory has become more popular on the right as Republicans have gained more power in state legislatures.

In 2020, the Trump campaign asked the Supreme Court to overturn a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that allowed the counting of mail-in ballots received after Election Day, a case that many believe will center on the theory. But the high court simply ordered late mail-in ballots to be separated during counting and took no further action when they were too few to change the result. Joe Biden won the state by just over 80,000 votes.

At its most extreme, some of Trump’s legal advisers in late 2020 wanted to use the theory to get state legislatures to replace the electors Biden won with electors who voted for Trump. They argued that it would be inappropriate for the Legislature not to approve any changes to the voting process that year, and that the Legislature should have the power to declare the winner of a presidential race.

North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature argued last year that the theory meant the state’s Supreme Court could not overturn a map it had drawn that awarded a disproportionate share of the state’s 14 congressional districts to Republicans. But Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority in Moore v. Harper, dismissed that argument as historically and legally inaccurate of.

“When legislatures make laws,” Roberts wrote, “they are bound by the terms of the document that animate them.”

Many democracy advocates believe that is the most important part of the ruling and will preclude most challenges to future state court decisions.

“We’ll see cases, but I think almost certainly — unless something really weird happens — they’ll have a lot to lose,” said Cameron Kistler, a legal adviser to the nonprofit Preserving Democracy. “I think the Supreme Court will want to draw a pretty firm line here, because the last thing they want is for every state official and every state court to raise a federal question about every election law decision.”

Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general who defended voting rights groups on the Supreme Court, said the ruling “is a signal that the U.S. Supreme Court, backed by six justices, will resist attempts by the state legislature to deprive them of their rights”. Disrupt the integrity of the 2024 election. “

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, who dissented from Justice Neil Gorsuch in the case, warned that signaling alone is not enough. He lamented the majority’s refusal to specify when state courts would overstep their powers, even though state courts would not do so in most cases.

“There will certainly be exceptions,” Thomas wrote. “Exceptions will arise sporadically in rapidly evolving, politically charged controversies in which the winner of a federal election may be determined by a quick decision in federal court.”

Some election lawyers worry about that possibility.

“It is critical that the rules of the election be clear and clear in advance, including the rules governed by judicial principles,” New York University law professor Rick Pierce wrote Tuesday. “In the 2024 election, we will see Continued litigation around this issue until the courts have more clarity on the boundaries of state court decision-making.” (AP)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a syndicated news feed, the latest staff may not have revised or edited the body of content)


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