How this year’s Supreme Court cases could shape the 2024 election and beyond



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The US Supreme Court began its new term this week and will hear two cases this year that could have significant implications for voting rights and the development of future elections.

The first, argued Tuesday, examines whether a congressional map drawn in Alabama illegally diluted the power of black voters in the state. But the Supreme Court’s conservative majority could result in narrowing the scope of a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The second case, out of North Carolina, focuses on redistricting, but could change how elections are conducted if the justices adopt an aggressive interpretation of a theory about the power of state legislatures to set election rules.

“The stakes are huge,” said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the UCLA School of Law and director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project, which looks at how high courts rule in these cases.

Here’s a look at each:

Alabama

Merrill v. MilliganThe Alabama case, heard on Tuesday, arose out of a redistricting dispute and sets a new test for the Voting Rights Act in a court that has distanced itself from the landmark law in recent years.

The problem: the congressional delegation in Alabama, where about 27 percent of the voting-age population is black. A lower court, relying on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination in voting, threw out a map that made black voters a majority in only one of seven congressional districts, or 14% of the state’s representation in Congress.

That court ordered the state legislature to create a second majority black district.

But earlier this year the Supreme Court reinstated the legislature’s original map while the case moves forward. The court’s decision to hear the case has raised the specter that it may be poised to further reduce the role of race in drawing districts in federal elections.

Alabama state officials, citing previous Supreme Court rulings that have limited the use of race on constitutional grounds, have argued that the state should only be required to create majority-minority districts in cases that take a race-neutral approach. would also bring those results. (Our CNN’s Tierney Sneed delved into this and other redistricting arguments earlier this year.)

If the court erodes Section 2’s power to redistrict cases, that would “make congressional and state and local legislative districts far less likely to allow minority voters to elect their own candidates to office,” Hasen said in an email of the broader implications. in case

North Carolina

In Moore v. HarperAs the North Carolina case is known, a lower court rejected a congressional map drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature as an illegal partisan gerrymander and instead approved a more Democratic-friendly map.

Republicans in the state legislature want the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn that ruling and adopt a theory that could limit the ability of state courts to review whether new voting laws conform to state constitutions. Advocates of eliminating or curtailing the powers of state courts point to the “doctrine of independent legislature,” an obscure legal theory advanced by some allies of former President Donald Trump that many experts see as an extreme idea.

But, as CNN’s Ariane de Vogue recently wrote, many Republicans are happy that the conservative-leaning high court has decided to weigh in on the issue. Three Supreme Court justices appointed by GOP presidents — Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch — have expressed “sympathy” for the theory in earlier stages of the case, he wrote.

If the Supreme Court adopts an aggressive interpretation of the independent legislature theory, it could give GOP lawmakers enormous powers to impose new voting rules in battleground states without fear of state courts overturning those efforts.

Critics of the independent legislature theory said they hoped the court would not go that far and pointed to a series of briefs filed calling for strong state court oversight of federal election matters.

They have not yet set a date for the hearing, but it is likely that the case will be heard in November or December.

You can read Ariane’s full preview of the new court term here.

In more than half the states, new voters must register before Election Day to vote in next month’s general election. The first deadlines are fast approaching – Alaska and Rhode Island have set voter registration deadlines of October 9th.

You can check nonprofit registration deadlines at Vote.org. The Washington Post also has an easy-to-use tool that lets voters see at-a-glance voter registration deadlines in their states.

We’ve written several times about the 19th Amendment that governs how Congress counts presidential electors. 20th century arcane law and efforts to rewrite it prevent another rebellion on January 6, 2021.

The overhaul got a big boost last week with the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s top Republican. And the bill has enough GOP support to overcome a filibuster in that chamber.

Some Republicans remain opposed, notably Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Cruz was the only member of the Rules Committee to vote “no” when lawmakers on the panel pulled the bill out of committee last week. It is unclear when the bill will go to the full Senate for a vote.

Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, have reached an agreement to give election clerks more time to begin pre-processing absentee ballots, the Detroit Free Press and other Michigan outlets reported.

Clerks may begin processing absentee ballots two days before election day, but not count them.

It may seem a bit cheesy, but it’s an important step towards delivering quick election results in this battleground and could cut some of the post-election drama seen in 2020.

Officials have asked for more time to allow candidates and conspiracy theorists to begin making false claims about the election’s outcome after absentee ballots two years ago slowed the count and created a vacuum.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, judges have cleared the way for election officials to begin counting mail-in ballots before Election Day.

  • This story by CNN’s Steve Contorno about election deniers getting access to the highest levels of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, even though the Republican has been tight-lipped about the 2020 election.
  • This article about the US Supreme Court allows Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against Mike Lindell of MyPillow to go forward.
  • CNN’s Sean Lyngaas reports on election workers training the feds on how to deal with violence at the polls.
  • This VoteBeat story on two Trump allies local election officials are looking into a coordinated multi-state effort. Last week we wrote about these allies’ financial support for the many voter challenges recently presented in Georgia.
  • This Atlanta Journal-Constitution story about a judge defending Georgia’s election laws, ending a long-running case brought by Fair Fight Action – a group founded by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. He will face Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a rematch of the 2018 battle.
  • My installment looks at how officials in hurricane-battered Florida are coping with the fast-approaching midterms. Do you live in Florida and worried about how to vote? This link includes deadlines for all voting activities, including the October 29 deadline to request an absentee ballot – a voting option for residents displaced by Hurricane Ian.

CNN’s Shania Shelton contributed to this edition.