On Tuesday, North Carolina state politicians and analysts reacted to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the high-profile Moore v. Harper case, with Democratic lawmakers celebrating the decision while plaintiff and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said he is glad the case is “settled.”
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the case’s 6-3 majority opinion, writing that the Federal Elections Clause in the U.S. Constitution does not give state legislatures sole authority over congressional redistricting.
Moore v. Harper originates from 2022 when the then-Democratic-controlled North Carolina Supreme Court struck down new redistricting maps created by the Republican-led General Assembly. The N.C. Supreme Court ruled that the maps were unconstitutional after determining Republicans gerrymandered the new districts in their political favor.
However, the General Assembly, led by Moore, challenged the N.C. Supreme Court’s authority to oversee congressional redistricting, adhering to the Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory. ISL theory holds that the U.S. Constitution’s Federal Elections Clause gives state legislatures the sole authority to determine congressional redistricting with zero potential oversight from state courts.
Despite losing the case, plaintiffs and Moore issued a statement saying he is “proud” he brought the issue to the attention of the country’s highest court.
“Today the United States Supreme Court has determined that state courts may rule on questions of state law even if it has an impact on federal elections law. Ultimately, the question of the role of state courts in congressional redistricting needed to be settled and this decision has done just that. I am proud of the work we did to pursue this case to the nation’s highest court,” said Moore.
However, some analysts say the Moore v. Harper decision does not rectify the issue of state court oversight of redistricting. Dr. Andy Jackson, Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation, stated the decision was “incomplete” in a statement to Carolina Journal.
“It will take another case or two to flesh out the limits on state court conduct in federal elections…the court specifically declined to address whether the North Carolina Supreme Court overstepped its authority in its Harper v. Moore decision last year,” said Jackson.
Democrats, who have focused on the case for nearly a year, took a victory lap in response to the Court’s decision. Gov. Roy Cooper celebrated the decision, directly claiming it would limit Republican power in the state while accusing GOP lawmakers of attempting to subvert elections.
“This is a good decision that curbs some of the power of Republican state legislatures and affirms the importance of checks and balances. But Republican legislatures in North Carolina and across the country remain a very real threat to democracy as they continue to pass laws to manipulate elections for partisan gain by interfering with the freedom to vote,” said Cooper in a statement.
In December, Cooper published a New York Times op-ed decrying the ISL theory as a “fringe claim.”
State Attorney General and current Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Josh Stein joined Cooper in praising the decision on Twitter.
Jessica Ring Amunson and Sam Hirsch, counsel for case respondents North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, said they were “pleased” with the Court’s decision in a press release.
“We are pleased the Court ruled in our clients’ favor and thoroughly rejected the radical independent state legislature theory pressed by petitioners. This ruling is a complete victory for our democratic system and makes clear that state legislatures cannot ignore or defy state law when regulating federal elections,” Amunson and Hirsch stated.
Despite the ruling, the case will not affect the state’s current congressional redistricting as the newly Republican-led state Supreme Court reversed the previous ruling on redistricting. Republicans recently gained a 5-2 majority in the Court following judicial elections in 2022.
Moore confirmed in a Tuesday statement that the General Assembly “will continue to move forward with the redistricting process later this year.”