North Carolina has some of the strongest voter protection laws in the south.
State legislatures decide where, when and how elections happen. Our legislators have been prone to racial and partisan gerrymandering during the process. They’ve attempted to rescind same-day registration and restrict absentee voting. Counties have been strategically targeted for voter roll purges and early voting cut-backs. It’s an agenda to promote a voting majority that represents a minority.
If our lawmakers are so keen to diminish our vote, how come we have such strong voter protections? Our state constitution’s free elections clause has stood stalwart time after time in cases like Common Cause v. Lewis (2019). Combined with our checks and balances system, attacks on voter access have largely been thwarted.
On December 7, the federal supreme court will hear Moore v. Harper, a perilous counterattack by Speaker Tim Moore. Moore’s argument hinges on a radical interpretation of the federal constitution called independent state legislature theory. The idea suggests state lawmakers should regulate elections without traditional checks and balances. They could pass voting legislation and draw district lines unimpeded by other branches of government, including state courts and the constitutions they uphold.
You might assume our nation’s highest court sees through this absurdity. The theory lacks credulity in academic literature by liberals and conservatives alike; the US Conference of Chief Justices completely dismantled it in their amicus brief. When the SCOTUS decided against expediting the case in March, however, three justices favored Moore. And as select originalists steer the courts away from historical precedent — as seen most recently in Dobbs (2022) — the threat looms high.
Federally, few voter protections remain since the Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013. The NC Supreme Court has barely been keeping the legislature in check, and a veto-proof supermajority seems likely. We need checks on power. Please, research the court candidates. Vote for the people who want to safekeep all votes. We’re voting for Inman and Ervin.
Luka Thornton (Trinity ’13, Pratt ’19, PhD candidate CEE) and Woodrow Barlow (NCSU ’17)
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