Panelists on MSNBC said democracy was “on the line” Wednesday after the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a redistricting case out of North Carolina.
“In some sense, it’s so strange that we just spent three hours, Katy, listening to a lawsuit that is kind of post hoc fan fiction about a Rehnquist opinion that got two other votes in Bush v. Gore, which was supposed to be a case that was good for one ride only. It tells you how far we’ve come in 20 years, that is now the beating heart of this suit, what was really interesting to me, everybody seemed to understand the stakes were high, and nobody was minimizing that it could have a huge ripple effect in every election going forward,” Slate legal correspondent Dahlia Lithwick told host Katy Tur. “What was interesting in my view is that some justices are really anxious about out of control legislatures, the rest are really anxious about out of control courts.”
The justices heard oral arguments for three hours Wednesday, according to CNN. The case centered around a dispute between the Republican-controlled state legislature in North Carolina and the state supreme court over the state’s congressional districts that were redrawn after the 2020 census.
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Lithwick said that there was “no basis in constitutional texts, or in history” for the “independent state legislature” theory she said the North Carolina legislature was pursuing.
MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin noted that numerous state constitutional provisions could be at risk if the Supreme Court sided with the North Carolina legislature, and also raised the specter of gerrymandering.
“While none of the justices were quite minimizing the consequences of this case, they were not exactly transparent about it either, except for Justice Kagan, who at one point asked the lawyer for the North Carolina legislature to take a step back and said, this is the theory with big consequences, and sort of outlined some of what Julia said could be at stake here,” Rubin told Tur. “Anything from partisan gerrymandering, to state legislatures saying they alone have the right to certify an election or decide who electors should be. That’s why people like me and Dahlia are saying that democracy itself is on the line, even though on its face, this is a case about redistricting law.”
MSNBC contributor Jake Sherman added that a ruling for the state legislature could make partisanship worse.
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“There are already so many maps that are so horribly gerrymandered but imagine if there was no remedy to that, none whatsoever, no state court that could say this has gone beyond what the Constitution of the state would allow, I mean it would be a much worse institution, it would be a much more partisan institution,” Sherman said.
Lithwick noted that constant battles over redistricting in North Carolina heightened the apparent stakes of the case.
“North Carolina is kind of a natural experiment in what happens when you get into high-level fights between state supreme courts and state legislatures about who is drawing the maps,” Lithwick said. “That’s why this feels existential.”