Supreme Court divided on legislature redrawing congressional districts

 June 29, 2023

In a divided 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state courts can have limited authority to override state legislatures on congressional redistricting maps, but federal courts can override both.

Although the decision claims to provide clarity, it could actually cause more confusion in the future.

North Carolina's Republican-led legislature made efforts to implement a redistricting map that favored the GOP.

Following the introduction of the redistricting map, the Democratic Party sued, and a North Carolina lower court initially ruled that courts could not decide such lawsuits.

The North Carolina Supreme Court, which had a Democrat majority at the time, later overruled that decision.

Later, two conservative judges were elected, and the new majority held that state courts could not override the legislature.

According to Chief Justice John Roberts, who spoke for the majority, the case concerns "the Elections Clause of the Federal Constitution, which expressly requires 'the Legislature' of each State to prescribe 'the Times, Places and Manner' of federal elections."

"We decide today whether legislatures have authority to set rules governing federal elections free from restrictions imposed under state law," Chief Justice Roberts added.

After debate over whether the case was moot or not, Robert noted that mootness doctrine is the "constitutional requirement [that] ensures the parties before us retain a personal stake in the litigation."

Roberts further explained, a need for continued interest "at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed."

"The majority held that the case was not moot in a nuanced line of reasoning that was emphatically rejected by the three most conservative justices on the court, then turned to the merits of the case," reported Breitbart.

"Since early in our Nation’s history, courts have recognized their duty to evaluate the constitutionality of legislative acts," Roberts wrote as the transition was introduced. The court held that "the Elections Clause does not insulate state legislatures from the ordinary exercise of state judicial review."

"By fulfilling their constitutional duty to craft the rules governing federal elections, state legislatures do not consent, ratify, or elect—they make laws," Roberts wrote. "Elections are complex affairs, demanding rules that dictate everything from the date on which voters will go to the polls to the dimensions and font of individual ballots."

"In sum, our precedents have long rejected the view that legislative action under the Elections Clause is purely federal in character, governed only by restraints found in the Federal Constitution," he continued. "Although we conclude that the Elections Clause does not exempt state legislatures from the ordinary constraints imposed by state law, state courts do not have free rein."

You can read the rest of Chief Justice Roberts' comments here.