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The Supreme Court examines electoral law



(Washington) The Supreme Court of the United States examines Wednesday an electoral law file which arouses strong fears on the left – but not only – because it could revolutionize the organization of the ballots for the White House and the Congress.

At the heart of the debates: a new legal theory proposed by the Republican congressmen of North Carolina which, if adopted, would give free rein to the legislators of the 50 States to organize the federal elections.

Postal voting, office opening hours, documents to be presented to register on the electoral lists…: the Constitution entrusts the legislators of each State with the task of setting “the time, place and procedure” of the polls.

Their laws are however subject to the control of the local courts and the possible veto of their governor. This is what elected officials in North Carolina want to change.

For them, the Constitution “places the regulation of federal elections in the hands of state legislators and others”.

This so-called “independent state legislators” theory has “never been validated by the Supreme Court even though it has been circulating for some time,” noted jurist Amy Mason Saharia during a presentation of the case.

Four of its nine judges have expressed interest in this doctrine “and there is a chance that the court will adopt it”, according to Ms.e Sahara.

“Fragile Democracy”

Democratic North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper believes it “could fundamentally transform American democracy,” already weakened by former President Donald Trump’s attempts to reverse his defeat in the 2020 election.

“Our democracy is a fragile ecosystem that needs counter-powers to survive,” he wrote in a column published by the New York Times.

Accusing the elected Republicans of his state of having “manipulated the electoral process for political gain”, the governor was delighted that the local justice system was able to block their efforts.

One of these battles is at the heart of the case before the Supreme Court.

With the 2020 census seeing an increase in its population, North Carolina gained an additional seat in the House of Representatives. Its parliamentarians then redrew the contours of the constituencies.

In February, their map was struck down by the state Supreme Court, which ruled it favored the Republican Party by lumping Democratic voters into certain precincts to dilute their vote elsewhere.

A second map did not seem fairer, so the local high court appointed an independent expert to take care of it.

Local lawmakers then turned to the United States Supreme Court, blaming the state judiciary for usurping their role.

The high court refused to intervene urgently and the expert’s card served well in the mid-term elections in November, allowing seven representatives from each party to be elected. The time for the substantive examination has now arrived.

” Absurd ”

As the hearing approached, President Joe Biden’s administration, Democratic senators and states, and all major civil rights groups (ACLU, NAACP, ADL, HRW) wrote to the court to dissuade it from adopt the new theory.

“This extremist interpretation of the Constitution would help local elected officials disenfranchise some voters, carve up constituencies as they see fit, and potentially sabotage the election outcome,” Sophia Lin Lakin of the ACLU.

Worried about a setback for democracy, dozens of demonstrators gathered on Tuesday with a marching band in front of the temple of law, brandishing signs “We need a balance” or “People before politics”.

The Republican Party deemed their alarmist speech “absurd”. Giving reason to the elected officials of North Carolina “will not give carte blanche to the state legislatures”, whose work can always be challenged in federal courts, he pleaded in an argument sent to the high court.

But in the conservative ranks, the theory is not unanimous. “Our political system would suffer greatly if the butchering of electoral districts were left out of control,” said former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The court must render its decision before June 30.

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