The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in Moore v. Harper on Dec. 7, the last day of its’ December sitting.
Moore v. Harper concerns the elections clause in Article I, section 4 of the Constitution and whether state legislatures alone are empowered by the Constitution to regulate federal elections without oversight from state courts.
The petitioner—North Carolina House of Representatives Speaker Tim Moore (R)—presented to the court the following question: “Whether a State’s judicial branch may nullify the regulations governing the ‘Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives . . . prescribed . . . by the Legislature thereof,’ U.S. CONST. art. I, § 4, cl. 1, and replace them with regulations of the state courts’ own devising, based on vague state constitutional provisions purportedly vesting the state judiciary with power to prescribe whatever rules it deems appropriate to ensure a ‘fair’ or ‘free’ election.
Below is a timeline of the major developments in the case:
- November 4, 2021: The North Carolina General Assembly adopted new congressional district boundaries after the 2020 census. Subsequently, a group of Democratic Party-affiliated voters and nonprofit organizations challenged the boundaries in state court, alleging that the new map was a partisan gerrymander that violated the state constitution.
- February 4, 2022: The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the state could not use the map in the 2022 elections and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. The trial court adopted a new congressional map drawn by three court-appointed experts.
- February 25, 2022: Prior to the state’s May 17 primary, Republican state legislators filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking to halt the state court’s order until SCOTUS could review the case. The court denied the request with Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch dissenting. In the dissent and in a concurrence by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the justices stated that the independent state legislature doctrine was an important question for the court to resolve.
- March 17, 2022: North Carolina House Speaker Moore filed a petition to the Court for a writ of certiorari.
- June 30, 2022: The U.S. Supreme Court granted review of the case.
Seventy amicus briefs have been filed in the case, with 17 filed in support of the petitioners, 48 filed in support of the respondents, and five in support of neither party. An amicus curiae is a person or group who is not a party to a legal action, but has a strong interest in the matter and has petitioned the court to submit a brief offering relevant information or arguments.
If the court rules in favor of the petitioners, the power and authority to regulate federal elections would become more concentrated in state legislatures and with the federal judiciary in the event of appellate review. When the case was granted, Republicans controlled 54.1% of all state legislative seats nationally, while Democrats held 44.3%. Republicans held a majority in 62 chambers, Democrats held the majority in 36 chambers, and one chamber—the Alaska House of Representatives—was organized under a multipartisan, power-sharing coalition.