The Supreme Court seemed open to arguments made by North Carolina Republican lawmakers, suggesting that state courts and other state entities have a more limited role in reviewing election rules established by state legislatures when it comes to federal elections.
Although the conservative justices appeared to embrace versions of a long-dormant legal theory that would allow only some constraints on state legislatures — it was unclear what the exact contours of the court’s final decision would be.
After three hours of arguments it appeared that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett could ultimately determine the breadth of the decision and how elections will change going forward. At one point, Roberts seemed to suggest a middle ground position.
He suggested that if a state supreme court is crystal clear with concrete provisions on what is allowed, a legislature would have to adhere to those state constitutional limits. Other justices floated other possible standards.
For their part, liberals told a lawyer for the lawmakers that his position in the case would upend electoral politics, cause chaos on the ground and embolden state legislatures to act without judicial oversight.
“This is a proposal that gets rid of the normal checks and balances,” Justice Elena Kagan said at one point “at exactly the time they are needed the most.” She told him “our precedent gives you lots of problems. “ Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson told the lawyer: “is it your argument that the state constitutions” has no role?
And Justice Sonia Sotomayor charged the lawyer with “rewriting history.”