The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a North Carolina case questioning whether state courts have the power to nullify legislative actions to regulate federal elections or draw congressional districts. Put another way, the case ponders whether a legislature can ignore its own state constitution when establishing election procedures for federal elections and drawing congressional districts.

Because Moore v. Harper involves federal elections only, a plausible outcome of the Court’s ruling could be voters facing two different standards for voter registration and election administration for federal and state elections, even if they are conducted on the same day and on the same ballot.

The case arose over redistricting in North Carolina. The Republican-led legislature adopted a map giving Republican candidates the advantage in 10 of 14 congressional districts after former President Trump carried the state by 1 point over Joe Biden in 2020. The state supreme court ruled the map violated the state constitution and adopted a new map. The U.S. Supreme Court let the court-drawn map stand, but Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas dissented, arguing that the Court “will have to resolve this question sooner or later, and the sooner we do, the better.”

At play is a legal theory envisioning an “independent state legislature” (ISL) that has the sole power, standing on its own and not part of a broader construction of state government (e.g., the governor, the state’s chief election officer and the state judiciary), granted by the U.S. Constitution to prescribe “the times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives.”

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