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The U.S. Supreme Court says it can get around the big election ruling

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) – The US Supreme Court on Thursday indicated it may sidestep a ruling in a landmark case about a Republican attempt to give state lawmakers much more power over federal elections by limiting state courts’ ability to review their actions.

The North Carolina Supreme Court last month granted a request from Republican state lawmakers to review its ruling last year against a map they had prepared of the 14 districts of the U.S. House of Representatives. In light of that, the U.S. Supreme Court has asked the various parties to the case, including the U.S. Department of Justice, to submit memorandums outlining positions on the effect of the state court’s actions on the judges’ jurisdiction over the case.

The state Supreme Court blocked the Republican card because it was unlawfully biased against Democratic voters. But the court has undergone a change in its ideological makeup — now it has a majority of Republican judges instead of Democratic judges. That could lead to a reversal of last year’s ruling.

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The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in December, but has not yet ruled in the high-profile case.

The judges’ order on Thursday cited a federal law that gives it jurisdiction over final rulings from the state’s highest courts. If the judges decide that they no longer have jurisdiction, they can dismiss the case.

Members of the state Supreme Court are elected by voters in North Carolina. In the November election, it went from a 4-3 Democratic majority to a 5-2 Republican majority. The court will hear the case again this month.

In the high-profile case, Republican lawmakers had urged the U.S. Supreme Court to embrace a once fringe legal theory now espoused by many U.S. conservatives that would undermine any role of state courts and state constitutions in regulating presidential and congressional elections. take away.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed inclined to rule in favor of Republicans and limit the state judiciary to override state politicians’ voting policies, though perhaps not going as far as lawmakers wanted. Liberal judges portrayed the challenge as a threat to American democratic standards.

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The legal theory in the case, called the “independent legislature” doctrine, is based in part on the U.S. Constitution’s statement that the “times, places, and manner” of federal elections “shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature of them.”

In their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, North Carolina Republicans argued that the state court usurped the authority of the state General Assembly under that provision to regulate federal elections.

The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the map in February 2022, concluding that the way the districts were created was deliberately biased against Democrats, weakening their “fundamental right to equal suffrage”.

A lower state court then rejected a redrawn map submitted by the legislature and instead adopted a new one prepared by a bipartisan group of experts. That card was used during the US congressional elections in November.

Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration opposed the Republican position when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case.

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(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York and John Kruzel in Washington; editing by Will Dunham)

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