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States Could Gain Power to Regulate Elections, SCOTUS Poised to Take Up Election Law Case

After the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block congressional maps drawn by state courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania back in March, the debate around the "independent state legislature" doctrine was brought back to light – with four justices expressing their willingness to address the doctrine once and for all.

The United States Supreme Court building (Getty Images)

Although the Supreme Court’s decision to refrain from intervening was effectively a victory for Democrats and a loss for Republicans, it was in line with the Purcell principle, which states that federal courts should not change election rules shortly before an election. Nonetheless, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said himself, "The issue is almost certain to keep arising until the Court definitively resolves it."

Ultimately, the difference between utilizing court-drawn maps over maps created by Republican-controlled legislatures is significant in that it allows Democrats to gain more seats.

As such, Republicans have ongoingly pushed for the Supreme Court justices to evaluate the matter, and with the election law case filed on March 17, titled Moore v. Harper, it is likely that SCOTUS will indeed accept it.

In the words of Tim Moore, a Republican who is the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, "The U.S. Constitution is crystal clear: state legislatures are responsible for drawing congressional maps, not state court judges, and certainly not with the aid of partisan political operatives." Therefore, with this case, the hope for Republicans is that it will reaffirm the preeminent constitutional authority of state legislatures to set the rules regarding both congressional and presidential elections, as well as set the rules for redistricting.

While conservative legal thinkers are notably in favor of the "independent state legislature" doctrine, left-wing election lawyers are vehemently against it and are reportedly in disbelief that the Supreme Court may in fact rule on it.

"A ruling endorsing a strong or muscular reading of the independent state legislature theory would potentially give state legislatures even more power to curtail voting rights and provide a pathway for litigation to subvert the election outcomes expressing the will of the people," expressed Rick Hasen, a University of California–Irvine law professor.

In order to move forward, the petition for SCOTUS to take Moore v. Harper must be accepted and granted by at least four of the nine justices. On June 21, the court is set to announce decisions on pending petitions.

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