The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a case that could dramatically change the way elections for Congress and the presidency are conducted by handing more power to state legislatures and blocking state courts from reviewing challenges to the procedures and results.
The justices will consider whether state courts, when finding violations of their state constitutions, can order changes to federal elections and the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts. The case probably will be argued in the fall.
“This case could profoundly alter the balance of power in states and prevent state courts and agencies from providing protections for people’s right to vote,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “There’s a wide range of ways the court could rule on this. Taken to its extreme, it would be a radical reworking of our system of running elections.”
In the most extreme example, lawyers said, if the Supreme Court were to rule that no entity besides state legislatures can set rules regarding federal elections, that could stop a governor from vetoing election bills or a state court from blocking rules that set up different voting hours in urban and rural precincts.
Jason Torchinsky, a Republican lawyer who wrote a legal brief urging the high court to take the case, said it is absurd to think the Supreme Court would ultimately allow that. He noted that as recently as 2015, the court agreed that legislatures do not have absolute power in elections, ruling that Arizona’s voter-approved redistricting commission could legally take the authority away from lawmakers to draw district lines.
“I don’t think you can take the theory as far as ‘the legislatures alone can do whatever they want,’” Torchinsky said. “The problem is we…
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