In a high-profile lawsuit, Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to recognize the power of state legislatures to regulate federal elections independently. The Supreme Court is now debating a case that centers on this doctrine; Moore v. Harper was heard in December 2022.
Republican Tim Moore is challenging the Supreme Court of North Carolina’s decision to redraw election districts in a way that goes against the wishes of the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. The Supreme Court of North Carolina reheard Harper v. Hall on April 28 and reversed its prior decision, holding 5 to 2 that the General Assembly, and not the courts, had exclusive jurisdiction over redistricting.
Most people believe that courts should stay out of matters of public policy and hence should not rule on allegations of partisan gerrymandering. Moore’s lawyers and those who would like to see the North Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling from April 28, 2023, upheld in the form of a judge-created state electoral map have filed supplemental letter briefs addressing the effect of that order on the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.
Elizabeth Prelogar, the Solicitor General, submitted the briefs. A formal ruling by the United States Supreme Court ruling could involve a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, the scheduling of new oral arguments, or a formal decision. Prelogar reports that on April 28, the state court ordered the dismissal of the underlying claim with prejudice, rejecting the court’s earlier contrary conclusion in Harper I and concluding that there are no judicially enforceable prohibitions on partisan gerrymandering in the North Carolina Constitution.
Prelogar argues that the April 28 order “moots the question this Court [agreed] to decide” because the case outcome could not be predicted regardless of the Court’s decision. Sarah Boyce, acting on behalf of North Carolina Solicitor General Josh Stein, asked the United States Supreme Court to throw out the case. David Thompson, representing Moore, urged the court to rule on the subject, while Boyce claimed that the action should be dismissed because the court lacked jurisdiction. Thompson argued that the North Carolina General Assembly has the power to pass a new congressional map for the 2024 election cycle and subsequent elections; however, if the court overturns Harper I, the original Congressional map adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly before this controversy began would once again become the default map governing congressional elections in North Carolina. A decision from the United States Supreme Court on the matter is imminent.