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‘people Over Politics’ Panel HighlightS Dangers of Moore v. Harper

‘people Over Politics’ Panel HighlightS Dangers of Moore v. Harper

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                         December 15, 2022

MEDIA CONTACTS: Loretta Young, (304) 952-9927, lorettayoung26@gmail.com 

‘People Over Politics’ Panel HighlightS Dangers of Moore v. Harper 

With Debunked Legal Theory on the Supreme Court Docket, WV & NC Activists and  Legal Experts Discuss Potential for Election Chaos

WEST VIRGINIA —  On December 7, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Moore v. Harper, a redistricting case where North Carolina lawmakers argue state legislatures should have near absolute power to run federal elections without checks and balances from the courts. Moore could make it easier for politicians to restrict the vote, draw rigged maps, and cast doubt on election results. 

The Greenbrier Chapter of the NAACP (Branch #3227) and Race Matters WV recently hosted a virtual forum to educate West Virginians about the dangers the case poses and its potential to throw our elections into chaos. The forum was moderated by former WV Secretary of State, Natalie Tennant, who is currently serving as a Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics Resident Fellow. Faith leaders, community activists and legal experts from West Virginia and North Carolina provided background on the case, discussed its significance, and its impacts for voting rights and fair courts. 

Tyler Dayne, Policy and Civic Engagement Manager, Common Cause North Carolina said his organization and members were just wanting fair voting maps for North Carolina, and when the North Carolina Legislature didn’t deliver, they sued. The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down a Congressional redistricting map drawn by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature.map as a partisan gerrymander in violation of the state Constitution. Unwilling to accept this outcome, Republican legislators asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and reinstate their gerrymandered map.

“Moore v. Harper threatens to upend our system of checks and balances and allow politicians in the state legislative branch to have unchecked power over federal elections. No one branch of government should have outsized power in our democracy,” Dayne said. 

The North Carolina legislators have based their case on a debunked interpretation of the U.S. Constitution  known as the “independent state legislature theory,” arguing that state courts and state constitution powerless in matters relating to federal elections. As with many cases where election laws are involved, this case has drawn national attention from voting rights advocates. 

Ethan Herenstein, Counsel with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice said, “The independent state legislature would upend our system of checks and balances, undermine crucial voting rights protections, and generate election chaos. As the thousands of pages of briefing presented to the Supreme Court have shown, the theory is bunk—it flies in the face of everything we know about American history, the Constitution, and democracy. The Supreme Court should unequivocally reject this dangerous theory.”

Atiba Ellis, a Professor of Law at Marquette University, who previously taught for nine years at the West Virginia University College of Law, played a role in the case by filing an amicus brief. Ellis’ brief, filed with the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research explains how checks and balances on state legislative activity are critical to safeguarding the rights of Black voters. Additionally, it casts a spotlight on the history of racialized vote suppression in North Carolina. 

“These checks and balances have historically provided and continue to provide critical protections against racial exclusion and oppression. These protections are especially important in the context of voting rights, as ‘[o]ther rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined,’ ” the brief argues. “The Petitioners’ truncated history of voting rights in North Carolina obscures the extent to which endorsement of the ISLT could disenfranchise Black voters and other voters of color in North Carolina.”

Several faith-based organizations were also among those who filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case. Rev. Darick Biondi, Coordinator, WV Faith Table provided a perspective from the West Virginia faith community. 

“God hears every voice, and as participants in this grand experiment that is American Democracy, every voice must have an equal vote. Since very early on in the great American experiment that is democracy, Gerrymandering has posed a dire threat to the foundational ideal of voters choosing their leaders, not the other way around. Moore vs Harper is a clear battleground in this ongoing struggle between the ideals of what democracy can be – an institution that protects every single person – or the harsh reality of what democracy devolves into when those with wealth and power have the final say,” said Biondi.  

Billy Corriher (NC), State Courts Manager with the People’s Parity Project, which is focused on checks and balances and reforming the legal profession so that is more fair to people said, “The independent state legislature theory is a radical interpretation of the Constitution that would give legislators a free pass to violate state constitutions.” Corriher said if the U.S. Supreme Court hands state legislators the power to manipulate our elections and undermine our votes, with no checks and balances, “democracy advocates should press Congress to expand the court or limit its jurisdiction over redistricting and voting rights. Our democracy is too important to let the Court undermine it.”

A video of the forum is available on the Race Matters Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/racemattersingreenbriervalley/videos/647089953722276 

More about the case can be learned at https://www.mooreharper.org/

A decision is expected in the case by next summer.