WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday requested additional briefings in a major North Carolina election case, indicating it could evade a ruling on a broad theory that could alter election law across the country.
The brief injunction called for the parties involved to submit new court documents regarding the impact of recent actions by the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The case before the justices, argued in December, concerns whether the North Carolina Supreme Court had the authority last year to throw out Republican-choice constituencies.
Since then, the North Carolina Supreme Court has shifted from Democratic to Republican control and the new majority has moved to review some of the earlier rulings. In particular, the state court last month He said he would reconsider whether Republican-chosen districts were illegal along with another case involving voter ID. Oral arguments in the North Carolina court are scheduled for March 14.
Thursday’s order asked North Carolina Republicans, groups that challenged the maps, and the Biden administration to assess by March 20 what effect the state court’s actions should have on the party’s consideration of the dispute. of the Supreme Court. The judges could potentially conclude that subsequent developments in North Carolina mean the case before them is now moot, meaning a decision is not necessary.
The appeal brought by North Carolina Republicans led by Tim Moore, the speaker of the state House of Representatives, asked the US Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, to adopt a 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 independent state legislature’s 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 upheld by the Supreme Court, say the language supports the notion that, when it comes to federal election rules, legislatures hold ultimate power under state law, potentially regardless of possible restrictions imposed by state constitutions.
In last year’s ruling, the state court ruled that the 14 congressional districts, which Republicans drew to maximize the influence of Republican voters in a state heavily contested by both major parties, were “illegal party rigging.”