Today, the US Supreme Court affirmed the importance of our system of political checks and balances. The Court rejected state legislatures’ exclusive and independent authority over federal elections as seen in the dangerous “Independent State Legislature” theory.
The case, Moore v. Harper, involved the “independent state legislature theory” (ISLT), a fringe political theory that would give state legislatures nearly unrestricted authority to set the rules and manipulate the outcomes of federal elections.
The case that brought the issue to SCOTUS - Harper v. Hall - raised concerns about the extreme partisan gerrymandering of North Carolina’s congressional maps. Though this case was overturned by the North Carolina Supreme Court on April 28, 2023, the question of ISLT at the US Supreme Court remained. In today’s decision, the Court rejected the ISLT.
How the Ruling Affects Oregon
If the US Supreme Court had ruled in favor of ISLT, it would have meant that the Oregon Legislature could gerrymander the state districts, and there would have been no avenue to appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court. Furthermore, if “legislature” was narrowly defined, then initiatives would not have been included. Fortunately, six justices decided that the rule of law and our system of political checks and balances was more important than the strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
“LWV Oregon stands with all 50 state Leagues of Women Voters to protect our elections from state government partisan gerrymandering.” - Rebecca Gladstone, Former President, LWVOR (October 2022)
On October 26, 2022, the League of Women Voters of Oregon, alongside every state League in the nation and the League of Women Voters of the US, filed an amicus brief urging the Court to rule against the Legislature and protect state courts’ power to use state law to protect free and fair federal elections.
Today’s SCOTUS decision is a major victory for our democracy because it rejects the dangerous idea that state legislatures have free rein to determine the rules for elections in their states. LWVOR applauds the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the ISLT and choose people over politics.