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OPINION: Moore v. Harper Could Give N.C. Lawmakers Absolute Power Over Elections

It's time to ask ourselves what we want

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Black Woman Holding a Pair of "My Vote Counts" Stickers. Moore v Harper
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Moore v harper on Wedensday, a case that could have huge implications for our elections.

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, North Carolina’s legislative leaders will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to give them absolute power over federal elections. That’s when the nine Justices will hear arguments in Moore v Harper, the N.C. redistricting case being called the gravest threat to American democracy.

In Moore, lawmakers make it clear they want the freedom to be lawbreakers.

Using a debunked idea, N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore argues the U.S. Constitution allows them to operate without checks and balances when drawing electoral districts, creating voting rules, and administering elections. A bad result in Moore means the General Assembly could rig voting maps, undermine votes, and manipulate elections. Neither state courts, nor the governor, could stop them.

Following December oral arguments, a ruling will likely arrive in June 2023. There’s plenty we must do before then. 

Since learning the Supreme Court would hear this case, plaintiff Common Cause North Carolina, alongside our partners, worked tirelessly to educate North Carolinians about the stakes in Moore. We’ve also equipped them with ways to fight back. 

Even the most cynical experts agree that the court of public opinion still matters to the Supreme Court — especially after the disruptions caused by their recent abortion ruling. To raise our voices, we’ve traveled to N.C. counties in every corner of the state, educating voters on what chaos could come if legislators are allowed to upend checks and balances. In turn, thousands of people have had their own conversations about Moore, growing North Carolina’s opposition to lawmakers’ radical proposal.

When people learn about Moore v Harper and what it could mean for them, they don’t like it.  

Elizabeth Longman from Harnett County said she’s concerned about more attacks on the freedom to vote: “The ballot has always been a place where we feel like we can make a change…if they take that away, it’ll be a nightmare.” 

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Worried that this case could impact voters’ ability to turn public sentiment into public policy, Alexa Roberts of Moore County told us, “North Carolina has already gone decades without meeting its constitutional obligation to provide equitable access to quality education. We need a fair chance to elect representatives who will prioritize the issues we care most about … Moore jeopardizes that.”

Common Cause’s Kathay Feng warned that voters could have their voices silenced in their time of need. “Imagine wading through hurricane storm waters to get to the polls or being displaced from your damaged home with an absentee ballot as your only option,” she said. “Moore means politicians alone could choose whether to help North Carolinians in an emergency.”

At this pivotal moment, we’re asking all North Carolinians to choose to help us in this emergency.

This week, we’ll be hosting rallies from the steps of the Supreme Court to every region of our state, including a press conference at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Whether you’re joining us on a bus to Washington D.C. for the oral arguments or representing the cause in your community, we must raise our voices to oppose this latest power grab to come out of our state. 

But even after oral arguments end, the work doesn’t.

Moore v Harper is a dangerous moment for our democracy that we must meet; but it has also helped to strengthen our decades-old democracy movement. In the months ahead, we’ll need North Carolinians to join us at public hearings to fight for responsive Congressional maps in 2023.

Together, we’ll need to lead lobby days and town halls to push back against inevitable attacks on voting access and to support pro-voter policies ahead of important elections to come.

N.C. lawmakers have made clear that they want to entrench their power at our expense. It’s time to ask ourselves what we want. 

Bob Phillips is executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.


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