Moore v. Harper
Moore v. Harper is a challenge to a 2021 North Carolina state districting map, it ultimately involves a conservative legal theory called independent state legislature theory. The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the newly drawn district map in 2021, calling it a partisan gerrymandering. The NC Supreme Court referred to a state constitutional provision on free elections. The trial court adopted a new map, which prompted the NC Speaker, Timothy Moore, along with others, to sue. Moore argues that because the Constitution uses “the Legislature” in the Elections Clauses, a state’s legislature can regulate elections but not a state’s courts or constitutional provision – this is the independent state legislature theory. The argument would apply to aspects such as partisan or racial gerrymandering, voter ID provisions, just to name a few. North Carolina and the original challengers defend the state supreme court’s ruling. They argue that the state legislature hasn’t ever argued for such a power grab in its history. And they also say that, because the state legislature is created by the state constitution, state laws have to comply with it and courts are able to provide a check.
If Moore wins, Republicans will get to pick a district map, but it will have a profound effect on all elections moving forward across the nation. If only a state legislature can get involved in elections, our system will depend on who’s in the majority in each state, because courts won’t be able to act on those questions and whatever the state constitution might say would be irrelevant.
If North Carolina, and the original challengers, win, their map stays in place and courts and constitutions will be able to step in when legislatures do something unconstitutional.