The U.S. Supreme Court will be examining two cases having to do with voting rights, and both of them are from southern states: Moore v. Harper from North Carolina, and Merrill v. Milligan from Alabama. The High Court will begin hearing Merrill v. Milligan on October 4, and both cases, according to Politico’s Zach Montellaro, “could reshape the 2024 election.”
“One lawsuit out of North Carolina could have broad ramifications, with Republicans asking the Supreme Court to revoke the ability of state courts to review election laws under their states’ constitutions,” Montellaro explains in an article published on September 29. “The reading of the Constitution’s Elections Clause that underpins the case — called the ‘independent state legislature’ theory — has gotten buy-in from much of the conservative legal world, and four Supreme Court justices have signaled at least some favorability toward it.”
Montellaro continues, “The decision in the case could upend American elections. And another case out of Alabama that will be heard on Tuesday, (October 4) involves a challenge to the state’s congressional map — and whether Black voters’ power was illegally diluted. The result could kick back open congressional redistricting in several states two years after the entire nation went through a redraw.”
The most severe form of the “independent state legislature” theory argues that state legislatures alone should determine how elections are run in a state — not judges, not governors, not state supreme courts.
“Practically, the results of the cases could open the door to even more gerrymandering by legislators around the country,” Montellaro notes, “and they could also give legislatures even more power within their states to determine rules for voting — including how, when and where voters could cast their ballots…. In both cases, Republican litigants are looking to reverse lower court orders — a federal court in Alabama and the state Supreme Court in North Carolina — that threw out political maps drawn by GOP-controlled legislatures.”
Rick Hasen, a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) law professor known for his election law expertise, told Politico, “This term has the potential to be a blockbuster term in terms of election law, but it really depends on how far the Court is willing to go.”
Eric Holder, who served as U.S. attorney general under President Barack Obama and now chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, believes that both cases have huge implications for the wellbeing of U.S. democracy.
Holder told Politico, “You cannot look at these cases objectively, without acknowledging the fact that taken together, they could determine whether or not the United States remains as the democracy that we have come to love. I think, unfortunately, we take for granted a democracy that fulfills the promise of one person, one vote.”