‘Five alarm fire’ for democracy
Court prepares to hear arguments in case that could upend system of checks and balances
Chances are, if you read The Fulcrum, you may have read about the “independent state legislature doctrine” in recent months. But probably never before 2022. That’s because for the past century, the Supreme Court has dismissed the fringe theory time after time.
But that may change, starting tomorrow, when the justices hear oral arguments in Harper v. Moore, a North Carolina redistricting case that has the potential to eliminate the right of state-level executive and judicial branches to check the power of legislators when it comes to election law.
“It’s a five-alarm fire for people concerned about democracy,” according to Hudson McCormick, North Carolina director of the progressive State Innovation Exchange.
Proponents of the ISLD argue that the Constitution gives legislatures the sole power to determine election law, even when those same legislatures have assigned authority to other branches. Four conservatives on the Supreme Court have indicated their willingness to consider – maybe even endorse – those arguments.
The justices, as much as the attorneys for the two sides, will be under the microscope Wednesday.
“Our democracy doesn’t work when corrupt politicians have unchecked power to rig elections,” said Joshua Graham Lynn, CEO of the nonpartisan reform group RepresentUs. “The Supreme Court must reject this shameless politician power grab.”
The state of voting
Following the 2020 election, Georgia became the proving ground for conservatives’ efforts to tighten election laws. We’re seeing some of those changes play out this week, as voters in the Peach State cast the final ballots in the runoff election for Senate.
A law passed last year cut the time between the general election and the runoff in half, reduced the number of required early voting days for runoffs from 17 to five and eliminated the requirement that counties offer early voting on the weekends.
Voters have reported waiting in line for hours to cast early ballots, and thousands in the Atlanta area say their mailed ballots arrived too late to meet the submission deadline.
Elsewhere, in the Voting Rights Lab’s weekly roundup of election law activity:
- A Committee in the Ohio House of Representatives will hold hearings this week on a bill that would restrict acceptable forms of voter ID, limit secretary of state authority, prohibit prepaid postage for mail ballots and remove provisions from the bill establishing automatic voter registration.
- A bill prefiled in Missouri would restore voting eligibility to people with past felony people to probation before regaining the right to vote.
- Rhode Island’s incoming secretary of state, Gregg Amore, cited legislation establishing same-day registration and the implementation of an online mail ballot request system as his top priorities.
Your take: Terminating the Constitution – convention, anyone?
Have we gone too far beyond the founders' intent of how we should self-govern as a nation? Should we start over? Donald Trump recently raised the specter of terminating the Constitution and while that is a step too far, perhaps it’s time to consider some changes.
Even Thomas Jefferson famously endorsed a constitutional convention to bring about change. In 1816, he wrote a letter suggesting that each generation should have the opportunity to "choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness."
With that in mind...
- If you were to amend the constitution, what would you amend?
- If you prefer to start over, how would a new constitution be different?
Send your thoughts to The Fulcrum’s Debilyn Molineaux by noon Wednesday. Responses will be published Friday.
Video: Is democracy all good now?
In the run up to the 2022 election, FiveThirtyEight tracked what every single Republican nominee for House, Senate, governor, secretary of state and attorney general said about the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Thirty-five percent fully rejected Joe Biden’s win and another 10 percent cast doubt on it. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Galen Druke speaks with reporter Kaleigh Rogers about how candidates who denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election did in the midterms.
Also in the news
5 things to watch as Georgia decides Warnock vs. Walker Senate runoff (CNN)
Campaign to give 16-year-olds voting rights gaining steam after Boston City Council vote (KOMO News)
Supreme Court Rejects Conspiracy Theory-Laden Case Against Dominion Voting Systems (Law & Crime)
Push to get rid of Mississippi’s felony voting ban continues with request for SCOTUS to take it up (WLBT)
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