The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the “independent state legislature theory,” which upholds that state lawmakers have total control over how congressional elections are run, and ruled that this power can be checked by state courts and state constitutions.
The implications: The decision brings a sense of stability to the 2024 elections.
* Legal scholars suggested that endorsement of this theory could potentially disrupt the country’s decentralized election system, which is primarily managed by state and local officials.
* A previous endorsement could have led to second-guessing of past state court rulings concerning state election methods.
* Election workers can now have more confidence that they are implementing their state’s election system with uniform rules and processes for all levels of races.
The details: However, the ruling leaves open a complicated legal question about congressional elections.
* Although the majority recognized that the authority of state legislatures over congressional elections is not exempt from ordinary state law constraints, they warned there are limits to what state courts can do.
* The justices did not clearly define the boundaries of “ordinary judicial review,” which might lead to requests for the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether a state court’s ruling in a congressional election case was an overstep.
The effects: The ruling has no direct influence on the issue that initiated this legal dispute – North Carolina’s congressional map.
* The ruling increases uncertainty about the future of Ohio’s contentious redistricting plan, as the state’s Republican lawmakers refuse to redraw the map despite the state court’s order.
What to expect: The ruling may prompt more cases to be brought to the court around the state legislature theory.
* Attorney Jason Torchinsky suggested that the court has adopted a narrower version of the theory, and that its full implications are still to be tested.
* Multiple lawsuits may be forthcoming, including a potential redistricting case out of Wisconsin and possible disputes arising from the 2024 elections.
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