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NC Supreme Court To Rehear Two Crucial Voting Cases After Majority Flips

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Republicans have a 5-2 majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court and they have decided to take on two major cases as the 2024 presidential election looms. The state’s highest court will rehear two recently decided cases on gerrymandering and voting rights, suggesting the justices may be open to overturning them altogether.

“The decision to rehear the cases — which found a voter ID law discriminated against voters of color and reaffirmed the court’s decision to redraw election maps — comes just about a month and a half after they were handed down by an outgoing Democratic majority. Harper v. Hall, the gerrymandering case, determined that state Republicans gerrymandered maps to produce a partisan advantage in the state’s congressional delegation and in the state House,” The Daily Tar Heel reported.

“The petition for rehearing the case argued that the Democrat-majority court made serious errors on law, including its decision that the General Assembly did not have complete oversight in elections protocol, and said that legislators should be “able to exercise its redistricting power unencumbered” by courts and judicial review,” the outlet added.

“The Harper experiment has failed, and it is time for this Court to recognize that, correct its errors, and return to the Constitution and this State’s traditional modes of interpretation,” the petition read.

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In the gerrymandering case, Republicans could potentially pick up four more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives if North Carolina’s state Supreme Court delivers a ruling in its favor.

The state’s highest court will hear a challenge to the state’s congressional map and the outcome could be very beneficial to the GOP.

“The current map, which was installed after the state Supreme Court struck down a legislature-passed map, could lead to the Republicans picking up as many as four House seats in 2024. The state Supreme Court now holds a conservative majority after elections last fall, and the court recently agreed to revisit its prior decision,” the Washington Examiner reported.

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“North Carolina’s 14 House seats are currently evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, but the previously enacted map, struck down by the court, would have likely set up the GOP with as many as 11 seats. One expert told Reuters it would not be a surprise if the old map was reinstated instead of an entirely new map being formulated. Early projections for the 2024 House races from the Cook Political Report show the GOP with an advantage, with the likely installation of new Republican-friendly maps in North Carolina and Ohio playing a role in the early projection. Republicans currently hold a narrow 221-212 majority in the House of Representatives after taking back control of the chamber in 2022 despite underperforming in most key races nationwide,” the outlet added.

North Carolina also has a closely-watched election case that could upend the 2024 presidential race.

“Conservative Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical about a state court’s decision to strike down Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina, but it seemed unlikely a majority would embrace a broad theory that could upend election law nationwide. The appeal brought by North Carolina Republicans asks the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, to embrace a hitherto obscure legal argument called the ‘independent state legislature theory,’ which could strip state courts of the power to strike down certain election laws enacted by state legislatures,” the New Yorker reported.

“The independent state legislature argument hinges on language in the Constitution that says election rules ‘shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.’ Supporters of the theory, which has never been endorsed by the Supreme Court, say the language supports the notion that, when it comes to federal election rules, legislatures have ultimate power under state law, potentially irrespective of potential constraints imposed by state constitutions,” the outlet added.

“Backed by Republican leaders at the N.C. General Assembly, the crux of the argument is that they and all other state legislators should have much broader power to write election laws, with courts mostly not allowed to stop them by ruling their actions unconstitutional. They’ve been tight-lipped about the case since filing it this spring, mostly preferring to avoid commenting on it to reporters and instead doing their talking through legal briefs. Beyond redistricting the case also has the potential to change how North Carolina and the 49 other states handle everything from early voting and mail-in ballots rules to voter ID, recounts, post-election audits, and anything else that could possibly affect an election,” the outlet added.

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