A little-known redistricting case with huge consequences for democracy is coming to the U.S. Supreme Court for oral argument Dec. 7 and Common Cause is in the thick of it.
Moore v. Harper is an appeal of a North Carolina case brought by Common Cause and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice after redistricting in the Tar Heels state. The N.C. Supreme Court ruled in our favor and threw out the legislature’s map as a partisan gerrymander that violated the N.C. Constitution. The N.C. legislature then appealed the case to the Supreme Court, basing its case on an obscure phrase in the U.S. Constitution, which it says gives state legislatures absolute authority over federal elections.
The case has implications for New Mexico, where the New Mexico Supreme Court is poised to hear a suit brought by the Republican Party challenging the congressional map adopted by the legislature in 2021. In other states, both Democrats and Republicans have taken maps and voting rights issues to state court. But if SCOTUS rules for North Carolina, state courts could not block legislative maps or restrict the legislature’s ability to set voting qualifications and procedures in federal races. In some states, this could open the door for discriminatory barriers to voting access, baseless challenges to election results, and rigged voting maps. The result would reduce the power of voters in favor of power-hungry politicians who would have carte blanche to sabotage an election, or a redistricting process.
Former judge and conservative legal scholar, J. Michael Luttig, calls Moore “the single most important case on and for American democracy since the nation’s founding.”
On Dec. 7, Common Cause will be arguing for the essential elements of democracy: checks and balances for each branch of government, the authority of state constitutions, judicial review of legislative and executive decisions. Moore erodes these fundamental elements and the rule of law to no more than the will of state legislatures.
This is why 48 “friends of the court” briefs have been filed by judges, secretaries of state, the American Bar Association, and good government groups to reject this desperate attempt to destroy these well-established principles. One of these, the Conference of Chief Justices, composed of 50 current and former justices from across 50 states, takes aim at its underlying “independent state legislator theory,” which ignores precedent, overturns centuries of checks and balances, and usurps the role of the courts and state constitutions. In addition, 12 secretaries of state, including New Mexico’s, contend that an adverse ruling would upend election administration, causing dual systems for federal and state elections.
For years, Common Cause has worked to amplify the voices of voters, not politicians who want to control the whole show without any kind of accountability. We see Moore v. Harper not just as a redistricting case, but a major attempt to usurp power and allow lawmakers to undermine ordinary voters who want a say in the future of our families and neighborhoods. In New Mexico we have been fortunate. But if SCOTUS rules in favor of North Carolina, every citizen’s vote is subject to a veto from their state legislature, which will control elections and make it even easier to draw rigged maps, erect barriers, or do whatever the politicians then in power want – without judicial or executive restraint. That’s not the democracy we know and love.
No matter your political party, we urge you to pay attention to this case and support those who are working to stop this power grab. Add your name to our petition (https://act.commoncause.org/petitions/reject-the-lawless-legislature-theory) to urge the Supreme Court to reject this lawless legislature theory.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard as equals in the political process.