Barrett doubted that the “independent state legislature theory” should give state legislatures absolute power to write laws for federal elections without facing state judicial review. And Barrett probed repeatedly about when, if at all, the Supreme Court should intervene in state court interpretations of state constitutions in these election cases.
That’s why the Supreme Court’s June decision to side with us at Common Cause and strike down the dangerous “independent state legislature theory” made sense.
Barrett’s skepticism against unbound power is what binds us as Americans. We resist any efforts that move us toward tyrants and dictators, regardless of party.
Now, some legal experts fear that this is not really dead — that a zombie threat exists to let state legislatures bypass state constitutions and courts and go straight to the Supreme Court for a second life.
But those in the trenches, including incredible attorneys like Neal Katyal and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice legal team who helped us win this case, know we effectively put a stake in the heart of this unconstitutional power grab by partisan operatives.
The victory won in Moore v. Harper averted what could have been a death knell for our democracy and preserved the checks and balances that have undergirded our system of government for more than 200 years.
The case reaffirmed state courts’ longstanding ability to curb extreme partisan gerrymanders and other abuses by state legislatures. And, in another June opinion in Allen v. Milligan, the court correctly affirmed the resilience of the Voting Rights Act’s protections.
Affirming the status quo is essential but far from enough. If we want to protect people’s ability to vote without manipulation or interference by politicians, we need Congress to act.
I and colleagues across many civil and voting rights organizations are calling for the passage of the just-reintroduced Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Having federal standards in our elections will ensure every American can make their voice heard at the polls and stop state-by-state campaigns to restrict people’s right to vote.
Even as we seek stronger federal protections, we at Common Cause are working with communities nationwide to end partisan gerrymandering.
In Alaska, Native leaders organized people to participate in redistricting, tell their community stories through their state commission, and finally litigate in state courts. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the state constitution’s equal protection clause prohibits partisan gerrymandering and redrew the lines to unify a community split by partisan operatives.
In California, people created an independent citizen redistricting commission of Republicans, Democrats and independents to hold hearings across the state bringing tens of thousands of people into a transparent deliberative process. The commission adopted new election maps unanimously — based on people’s voices, not politicians’ choices.
In the Sunshine State, Floridians made a historic stance by adopting a state constitutional amendment to ban partisan gerrymandering.
Even now, politicians try to thwart the people’s will at every turn. But the U.S. Supreme Court, in Moore v. Harper, definitively affirmed that state constitutions matter. No one, not even powerful politicians, is above the law.
The push for fair maps extends to local governments with cities from Austin, Texas, to Bloomington, Ind., to Syracuse, N.Y., using citizen redistricting commissions to draw city council districts. Right now, Los Angeles, rocked by political scandals, is having hard conversations about how to remove political self-interest and create a new independent redistricting commission.
Overwhelmingly, Americans are demanding elections, redistricting and governments that are equitable to all, not in the service of a few. Politicians should pick their voters and decide who votes and who doesn’t. That right to choose our elected leaders belongs to the people — all the people.