Supreme Court rebukes Trump in ruling on Elections Clause

June 28, 2023
Matthew Boose

The Supreme Court shut down the argument that state legislatures have exclusive power to set the "time, place, and manner" of federal elections in a decision Tuesday that had Democrats cheering. 

The dispute in Moore v. Harper dealt with election maps in North Carolina, but it was overshadowed by President Trump and the controversy over the 2020 presidential election.

A six-justice majority of the Supreme Court implicitly rebuked Trump and the so-called "independent state legislature theory" Tuesday, finding the power of state legislatures over federal elections is limited by judicial review at the state level.

Democrats cheer

The so-called "independent state legislature theory" has been the subject of a full court press in the leftist media, where it has been portrayed as a dangerous, fringe attack on "our democracy."

Trump had relied on the "theory" when he challenged the 2020 presidential election results. At the time, Trump argued the lawful authority of state legislatures had been usurped by state courts and secretaries of state who went to extraordinary lengths to change the rules in response to COVID.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the Elections Clause of the Constitution "does not insulate state legislatures from the ordinary exercise of state judicial review." At the same time, Roberts warned that state courts do not have "free rein" to step on state legislatures.

Understandably, Democrats have applauded the Supreme Courts' ruling as a rebuke of Trump's so-called war on "our democracy." Former divider-in-chief Barack Obama teed off a venomous tweet with the usual scare words about the "far-right" and "voting rights."


The dispute in Moore v. Harper dealt with congressional maps drawn by North Carolina Republicans.

The state's Supreme Court initially threw them out, agreeing they were gerrymandered for partisan gain.

Then, the state's newly Republican Supreme Court reversed that decision last year, finding that courts could not adjudicate political questions of gerrymandering under the state's constitution.

Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented from the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday, arguing the federal question was "moot" because the case had been resolved in lower court already.

"As a result, petitioners’ alternative Elections Clause defense to those claims no longer requires decision; the merits of that defense simply have no bearing
on the judgment between the parties in this action. That is the definition of mootness for an issue."

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