North Carolina Supreme Court agrees to rehear election law dispute, potentially places U.S. Supreme Court case on hold

March 10, 2023
Ben Marquis

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last year in an election law case out of North Carolina, but may ultimately drop the matter and not issue any ruling at all.

That is because the North Carolina Supreme Court announced last month that it would rehear the underlying dispute about alleged partisan gerrymandering in the state legislature's redistricting process, SCOTUSblog reported.

The U.S. Supreme Court case is known as Moore v. Harper and is centered on a doctrine known as the "independent state legislature theory," which asserts that the U.S. Constitution granted state legislatures, and them alone, sole jurisdiction to regulate how elections are conducted.

The underlying dispute, however, was the previous Democratic majority North Carolina Supreme Court striking down and replacing Republican-drawn redistricting maps, though that same court now has a Republican majority and has agreed to revisit the issue.

Supreme Court has questions now

SCOTUSblog reported that the nation's highest court on Thursday issued a brief order that directed both sides in the case to file 10-page briefs by March 20 to explain what, if any, impact the North Carolina high court's rehearing of the matter would have on the Supreme Court's jurisdiction under relevant statutes and precedents.

Depending upon what those impending briefs put forward with regard to the actions of the North Carolina court, the high court could decide that it no longer needs to be involved in the matter and bow out.

That could potentially be a blessing in disguise for the North Carolina Republican lawmakers who brought the case and are seeking a definitive answer on the "independent state legislature theory," as SCOTUSblog reported on Dec. 7 last year that the justices did not seem to be particularly receptive to the idea that state courts have no say in state-level election laws during oral arguments.

GOP attorneys don't think case will get dropped

Yet, according to the Epoch Times, an attorney representing the Republican lawmakers in the case doesn't think the U.S. Supreme Court will drop the matter at all.

"We are confident the United States Supreme Court continues to retain jurisdiction in this important case," GOP attorney David Thompson said, and when asked if the high court would go ahead and issue an opinion on the matter, added, "Yes, we are confident the case is not moot."

Thompson was seemingly supported by another Republican attorney who argued a similar case in Maryland, Ed Hartman, who also predicted that the Supreme Court would follow through and not drop the North Carolina case.

Hartman said the Supreme Court might say, "'Well, it doesn’t matter anymore because that election concluded and we’re not going to redo it,' but, of course, the same question will come up every two years."

Issue will have to be addressed eventually

"I can see this issue coming up again, whether it be in North Carolina or any other state because it is the very same issue that happened here in Maryland, which is that the judiciary decided on how the elections should be held, whether it’s through approving their own redistricting map, or in our case, suspending election rules on how and when to count absentee ballots," he continued.

Hartman added, "And that’s just not the courts’ role."

We should know within the next two weeks whether the Supreme Court will rule on this "independent state legislature theory" now or wait until it inevitably returns to the docket at some point in the future.

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