On the docket in October
Published July 14, 2022
By Lib Campbell
North Carolina will be in the news once again next October as the US Supreme Court hears the case Moore vs. Harper, a case that could alter not only our state, but our democracy. We need to pay attention to this one.
Extreme gerrymandering is at the heart of this issue. We all have seen the maps of both Democrat and Republican congressional districting in various iterations, drawn depending on who is in power at the time. The NC Constitution provides instruction for drawing representative districts. Each district shall represent, as nearly as possible, an equal number of inhabitants. Each district shall at all times consist of contiguous territory. No county shall be divided in the formation of a representative district. The districts shall remain unaltered until the return of another decennial census of the population.
Google earth and digital mapping have made it possible to draw district lines neighborhood to neighborhood, almost door to door, shaping an electorate to accomplish desired outcomes. This is how an increasing voter demographic can lose potency to elect representation that reflects their interests. State legislatures are given authority to control this process. Moore vs. Harper will prohibit any state court from challenging, and re-drawing districts.
The Independent State Legislature Doctrine, drawn largely from Article I, Section 4 of the U. S. Constitution says, “Times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and Representatives shall be proscribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” If this is interpreted by the Supreme Court to give state legislatures complete control of the election process, a voting electorate will have no power and little purpose (which might actually be the intent.) But it doesn’t stop here.
If this ruling passes, here is another concern. Article II, Section 1 of the constitution states, “Each state shall appoint in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors.” Electors name the president and vice-president. It is hoped their vote reflects the will of the people, and for the most part it has. There are a few instances of “faithless electors,” but not many. That may be getting ready to change, depending on the reach of the legislature to effect election outcomes.
That this argument has made it into the docket of the Supreme Court for its next term is sad and shocking to me. I see the whole case as one of dismantling the checks and balances of our three branches of government, giving outsized influence to the legislative branch. The legislative branch always had power greater voice and authority, enough not to be subdued by another tyrant monarch. Surely it was not the intent of the framers to give unchecked and unilateral power to them, without the check the courts had to bridle any recklessness that would be considered.
The thorn in the side of State House Speaker Tim Moore is that a Democrat-leaning North Carolina Supreme Court has thwarted skewed redistricting plans for several years. If you can’t beat’em, file a lawsuit against ‘em.
This ruling assumes there are no bad actors who would try to claim victory in the face of defeat or send slates of electors to vote for somebody who might actually have lost an election. Oh, wait. Hasn’t that just been tried? Codifying the Independent State Legislative Doctrine gives a green light to any rogue actor who wants to hold onto power above the people’s power.
I’m not sure at this point if anything can stop this train. I do know that it is more important than ever that we elect people of character who want to see the democratic process of one person, one vote preserved and honored. Manipulation and machinations of the constitution negate the spirit of democratic integrity. This would not be any more right if the Democrats were doing it. Right now, with Republican majorities in our state legislature and on the U.S. Supreme Court, this seems like a railroad job being done with no possibility of brakes. If Moore prevails, elections going forward could be less representative of the people and more skewed to those who want to stay in power. Power grabs are never pretty, and they don’t make good news for the historical record. If Moore wins it will be a sad day for us all.
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, columnist, retreat leader and hosts the blog www.avirtualchurch.com. You can contact her at