Opinion | Susan Knopf: Independent state legislature theory is in the courts | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: Independent state legislature theory is in the courts

The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.

On Dec. 7, 2022 Republicans dropped a bomb on our democracy.

The coincidence isn’t lost on me, and it should trouble you.

On Dec. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Moore v. Harper, a redistricting case. If the conservative leaning court affirms the independent state legislature theory, our democracy will likely end.

Any fifth grader can tell you our government, our democracy, is grounded on the notion of checks and balances between the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

The independent state legislature theory posits the idea that state legislatures operate independently of any oversight by the judicial or executive branches.

In Moore v. Harper, the North Carolina Supreme Court threw out gerrymandered districts it said violated the North Carolina Constitution. The North Carolina legislature is challenging that ruling. The legislature says it has unilateral, unchecked authority. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in two 2019 cases that gerrymandering is political, and not a matter for federal court review.

For the record, Democrats represent the single largest block of party-affiliated voters in the country, according to Pew Research.  Yet, state legislatures are 59% Republican.

The disparity between the composition of state legislatures and the party affiliation of registered voters helps explain why our politics became so volatile.

Conservatives see their power — as measured by voter registration — shrinking. This is creating an hysterical power grab, not just here, but globally.

Also on Dec. 7, German police arrested 25 people in a far-right plot to violently overthrow the government and to install the former royal family. 

It’s easier to catch 25 people plotting, instead of charging nearly a thousand people for their attempts to stop our Constitutional process on Jan. 6, 2021. In Germany, the right-wing group linked to QAnon, does not acknowledge their constitution.

Our former president, a QAnon supporter, announced he’s running again. He called for setting aside our Constitution. He doesn’t recognize the authority of our democratic government. His own legal team reported they found more presidential papers marked classified in a public storage locker.

Conservatives in our country and abroad see their influence and relevance shrinking, and so they are responding violently to stop democracy and the voice of the people.

Enter Moore v. Harper, a Supreme Court case brought by right-wing extremists. The intention of the right wing fringe: strengthen their hand and marginalize the voices of those who don’t agree.

If the Supreme Court affirms the independent state legislature theory:

  • Legislatures will be able to set aside election results they don’t like and appoint their own electors. (Sound familiar?)
  • There will no longer be any checks and balances on state legislatures.
  • Legislatures will be able to reduce access to voter registration and voting.

The Conference of (state) Chief Justices has filed an amicus brief opposing this dangerous far-right theory. The opposition to this theory is bipartisan and includes conservative luminaries like the Federalist Society co-founder Steven Calabresi.

Here in Summit County, and in Colorado, we currently have Democratic government. Our county and state have been led by Republicans. What would our voting rights, abortion rights look like then? How would we feel if our legislature set aside our votes and put up a new set of electors? Political tides ebb and flow.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said the Republicans think they will continue to dominate state legislatures. Can you imagine what they would say if Democrats were running the state legislatures?

Former U.S. Labor Secretary and Stanford University Professor Robert Reich tweeted, “Ginni Thomas used the independent state legislature theory in her efforts to pressure state lawmakers to overturn the 2020 election results. This theory is central to a case before SCOTUS … called Moore v. Harper. Are we really going to let Clarence Thomas rule on this?”

Yep. The Supreme Court has no code of ethics.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia went hunting with Dick Cheney three weeks after the Supreme Court decided to hear the vice president’s appeal of lawsuits regarding his dealings on the energy task force. Judges get disbarred for such behavior. It wasn’t the first time, Cheney got a pass from the Supreme Court. It helps to have friends in high places.

Rules matter. It also matters who enforces the rules. Your vote matters. Elections have consequences. Let’s hope the Supreme Court can diffuse this bomb, so we can protect our democracy .

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