Moore v. Harper

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Election Law
  • Date Filed: June 27, 2023
  • Case #: 21-1271
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which SO- TOMAYOR, KAGAN, KAVANAUGH, BARRETT, and JACKSON, JJ., joined. KAVANAUGH, J., filed a concurring opinion. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which GORSUCH, J., joined, and in which ALITO, J., joined as to Part I.
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Elections Clause of the Federal Constitution vests state legislatures with the authority to set rules governing federal elections free from restrictions imposed under state law.

Several groups of plaintiffs brought claims under North Carolina’s Constitution, challenging new congressional districting maps. After the 2020 decennial census showed that North Carolina’s population had increased by nearly one million people, the General Assembly set out to redraw the congressional districts. Once the maps became law, several groups of plaintiffs asserted that each map constituted an impermissible partisan gerrymander in violation of the North Carolina Constitution. Wake County Superior Court agreed with plaintiffs and found that the General Assembly’s 2021 congressional districting map was a “partisan outlier intentionally and carefully designed to maximize Republican advantage in North Carolina’s Congressional delegation.” However, the court denied relief. The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed and held that the legislative defendants violated state law “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Court struck down the maps and remanded the case to trial to oversee redrawing by the General Assembly. The trial court rejected the General Assembly’s plan and adopted interim maps. The legislative defendants filed an emergency application requesting a stay of the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision, which the Supreme Court declined, but eventually granted certiorari. Petitioners argued that because the Federal Constitution gives state legislatures the power to regulate congressional elections, only that Constitution can restrain the exercise of that power. They cite Federalist No. 78 for support, which explains that the wielding of legislative power is constrained by “the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised.” They also argue that at least some state constitutional provisions can restrain a state legislature’s exercise of authority under the Elections Clause.

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