Last night, the Supreme Court slapped down the attempts by Republican legislators in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to block state court-ordered congressional districting plans less skewered towards Republicans than they would have preferred. The districts are still unfair to Democratic voters, just not as unfair as they would have been if the Republican-controlled legislatures in the two states had their way. The 2022 elections will be held under the new maps approved by the state Supreme Courts in the two states. The 3 most overtly partisan neo-Nazi judges-- Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch-- dissented in the North Carolina case; there were no dissents lodged in the Pennsylvania decision.
CNN reported that "The North Carolina Supreme Court held the congressional map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander under North Carolina law and that the General Assembly must not 'dilute any individual's vote on the basis of partisan affiliation.' The congressional maps are 'unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt' under several clauses of the North Carolina Constitution, it added."
Adam Liptak wrote that "Taken together, the two opinions suggested that there are four justices ready to add a case on the question to the court’s docket when it is next presented in a petition seeking the court’s review rather than on what critics call the court’s shadow docket. It takes four votes to grant such review. But Monday’s action seemed to guarantee that the 2022 election will take place under the court-imposed maps."
The North Carolina Supreme Court had rejected a map drawn by Republican lawmakers that effectively gave their party at least 10 of the state’s 14 House seats, notwithstanding that voters statewide are roughly equally divided between the two parties.
A three-judge panel of the state Superior Court in Raleigh instead adopted a new map drawn by a nonpartisan panel of redistricting experts that appeared to split North Carolina’s congressional districts roughly equally between Republicans and Democrats. It gave each party six relatively safe House seats and made the other two competitive.
After the State Supreme Court refused to block that ruling, Republican state officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.
In the Pennsylvania case, the State Supreme Court adopted a map that appears to give Republicans nine fairly safe seats and Democrats eight, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. Each party currently holds nine House seats, but Pennsylvania will lose a seat next year because of reapportionment after the 2020 census.
Voters and a Republican candidate for the House sued state officials in federal court to challenge the new map. When they did not receive immediate relief, they asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.
Both emergency applications relied on the Elections Clause of the Constitution, which says “the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” That meant, the challengers argued, that the state legislature has sole responsibility for drawing congressional districts and that state courts have no role to play.
“The question presented here,” North Carolina Republicans wrote in their application, “goes to the very core of this nation’s democratic republic: what entity has the constitutional authority to set the rules of the road for federal elections.”
The North Carolina Supreme Court rejected that argument, sometimes called the independent state legislature doctrine, saying it was “repugnant to the sovereignty of states, the authority of state constitutions and the independence of state courts, and would produce absurd and dangerous consequences.”
But four justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have suggested that they are sympathetic to the doctrine. Three opinions issued in October 2020 seemed to endorse it.
“The provisions of the federal Constitution conferring on state legislatures, not state courts, the authority to make rules governing federal elections would be meaningless if a state court could override the rules adopted by the legislature simply by claiming that a state constitutional provision gave the courts the authority to make whatever rules it thought appropriate for the conduct of a fair election,” Justice Alito, joined by Justices Gorsuch and Thomas, wrote in a statement when the court refused to fast-track review of whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court could alter deadlines for mail ballots set by the legislature.