Despite seeing progress in advancing voting rights in the last several years, the organization that spearheaded the 2018 initiative that created the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission says an upcoming case before the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) threatens to undo that effort — and much more.
Voters Not Politicians (VNP) held a panel discussion Wednesday night to highlight the implications to voting rights that may result from the case of Moore v Harper which will be heard by the right-wing court this fall.
The case centers on newly drawn maps for North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats. The North Carolina Supreme Court found the maps were gerrymandered, thus violating the state’s constitution.
Republicans in the state appealed that decision, arguing that state legislatures have the sole authority to define congressional districts.
That argument is based on a previously obscure legal theory known as the Independent State Legislature Doctrine (ISLD) previously reported on by the Advance. It interprets the Elections Clause in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution and the Presidential Electors Clause in Article 2, to mean that legislatures are the sole state entity that can regulate federal elections, and as such can overrule state courts, and even state constitutions, on such matters.
The discussion was moderated by Nancy Wang, executive director of VNP, which is also part of the Promote the Vote coalition behind Proposal 2 of 2022, an amendment to the state Constitution that seeks to expand voting access by requiring nine days of early in-person voting, allowing military or overseas ballots to be counted if postmarked by Election Day and requiring at least one drop box in every municipality and at least one drop box for every 15,000 registered voters in a municipality.
However, Wang said that if the high court were to embrace the ISLD in the Moore v. Harper case, all of that could be upended.
“We have the state parties and the state Legislature that have shown a willingness to use their power to keep themselves in power, even while it undermines our elections,” she said. “And now the Supreme Court has been thrown this Moore v Harper case and with it, the possibility that they could give our state legislature overarching, unchecked power to regulate our federal elections, to set rules that they want for our federal elections that we couldn’t do anything about, either by citizens initiative or constitutional amendment or state court or the governor.”
Joining in the discussion was the Brennan Center for Justice’s Deputy Director of Democracy Tom Wolf, who is currently focused on the ISLD and its upcoming SCOTUS review.
Also speaking at the forum was writer Meaghan Winter, author of “All Politics is Local,” which makes the case that the Democratic Party for decades has been overfocused on federal elections, ceding control of state governments to the GOP and right-wing interests.
“For many years, starting soon after the Brown v Board of Education decision in the ‘50s, when the Supreme Court required the integration of schools, libertarian and what we would now call right-wing donors, decided that they would fund state level policy to push their agenda,” she said. “And by the 1970s, not only were they pushing racist bills about school segregation and funding, but they were also committed to changing the way our government functions.”
She said the ISLD is an extension of that effort.
“So I think that’s a really important thing to realize that this has been happening for decades,” said Winter. “These ideological actors, who are very well funded, have been focusing on changing the actual rules, not just electing someone that they favor and not just pushing a policy about this or that issue. They really have been trying to undermine the basic tenets of our democracy.”
Former state Sen. Buzz Thomas (D-Detroit) agreed that local races are critical.
Thomas said in the long term, providing more funding and resources for election officials was a key way to help alleviate the idea that elections are inherently faulty, but more needed to be done now.
“I think in the short-term, we really do need to pay attention to boards of canvassers here in Michigan,” he said. “We’ve seen through just the most recent ballot initiatives where the state board of canvassers deadlocked and was forced by the state Supreme Court, to reverse itself and put Promote the Vote and the Reproductive Freedom For All [abortion rights] initiative on the ballot, because they essentially overstepped what their role was.
Wolf concluded the event by focusing on one potential outcome from Moore v Harper.
“One really core implication of this case is that if the court rules the wrong way, it’s going to kneecap the national movement to stop partisan gerrymandering,” he said. “That’s probably the most extreme abuse in terms of something that we’re going to have very few options to deal with.”
This story was originally published by Michigan Advance. Read more here: https://michiganadvance.com/2022/09/16/experts-warn-of-anti-democratic-peril-from-upcoming-scotus-case/