Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of the fringe independent state legislature theory in Moore v. Harper was a major victory for democracy. But the justices left the door open for future litigation that carries some risk.
A new column from the Center for American Progress says the ruling creates the possibility that partisan state legislatures will seek relief in federal courts in a bid to reverse pro-voter state court decisions governing federal elections.
The court ruled 6-3 that the Constitution does not give state legislatures unbridled authority to pass laws regarding federal elections and draw congressional maps without judicial review. But the majority said there may be times when state courts can exercise too much power and impermissibly usurp the authority vested in state legislatures to set the rules for federal elections.
While the court gave litigants the ability to seek federal court review of state court decisions concerning state laws regulating federal elections, it did not announce a specific standard of review for such cases to ascertain when state courts go too far. More litigation will set the boundaries of what authority state courts have.
“The U.S. Supreme Court thankfully jettisoned a broad version of the ‘independent state legislature theory’ to the dustbin of history,” said Michael Sozan, a CAP senior fellow and author of the column. “This decision is good for free and fair elections and bad for extremists who are intent on subverting democracy. Future litigation will flesh out the standard of review in similar election-related cases, but for now, democracy has dodged a bullet.”
Read the column: “Supreme Court’s Decision in Moore v. Harper Is a Win for Democracy, But Some Questions Remain Unanswered” by Michael Sozan
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