The Supreme Court on Thursday asked for additional information about whether it still has jurisdiction over a major electoral law dispute involving the North Carolina congressional map that is having major implications for American democracy.
Judges last year agreed to dismiss an appeal by the North Carolina Supreme Court in Moore v. Harper, but the state court’s new Republican majority agreed to retry the dispute early last month.
US Supreme Court justices want to know if they can still go ahead and give them an exit ramp if they determine they are no longer competent.
The parties have until March 20 to submit briefs setting out their views.
Republican state lawmakers seek to reverse a North Carolina Supreme Court decision ordering a new congressional ticket for the state after it was found that the GOP version’s partisan gerrymander violated the state constitution.
More broadly, legislators advance a far-reaching argument known as the independent state legislature theory, which would give state legislatures near-total powers in producing congressional maps and regulating other electoral matters.
They believe that the electoral clause of the US Constitution confers the authority to regulate federal elections solely on the state legislature, and that state courts and state constitutions have no power to block these decisions.
The elected judges of the state Supreme Court had ruled against the GOP lawmakers and ordered a new map. However, on Feb. 3, after Republicans seized control of the court in the midterm elections, the court granted a motion by GOP lawmakers to retry the case.
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The US Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review decisions made by the highest court in a state that affect the federal constitution and are considered final judgments.
The judges asked the parties and the Justice Department, which opposed Republican lawmakers, for additional information on whether the rehearing decision stripped the US Supreme Court of its jurisdiction.
During the December hearing, judges appeared to have been trying to find a middle ground in the underlying dispute, with some of the court’s conservatives appearing to favor keeping state courts some role in regulating federal elections.