Supreme Court's Potential Changes to Elections Spark Panic: 'Judicial Coup'

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear a potentially monumental elections case has caused anger and panic as critics argue the case could upend U.S. elections.

Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the move a "judicial coup" while one former adviser to former President Bill Clinton said people should be "panic-stricken."

The Court has agreed to hear Moore v. Harper during its next session. That case challenges the North Carolina Supreme Court's right to strike down electoral maps drawn by the state legislature.

Tim Moore, speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, is also asking the Court to adopt the so-called "independent state legislature" theory—a legal theory that asserts the Constitution only gives state legislatures the right to supervise redistricting and election laws, not courts or other officials.

The Brennan Center for Justice called Moore v. Harper "an appeal advocating for extreme interpretation of the Constitution that could make it easier for state legislatures to suppress the vote, draw unfair election districts, enable partisan interference in ballot counting."

If the Court adopts the independent state legislature theory, governors and courts could be prevented from involvement in deciding election laws and drawing districts, with state courts unable to strike down potentially gerrymandered maps. It could also have a major impact on the 2024 presidential election.

Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter on Thursday to slam the Court's decision to hear the case.

"We are witnessing a judicial coup in process," Ocasio-Cortez wrote. "If the President and Congress do not restrain the Court now, the Court is signaling they will come for the Presidential election next. All our leaders—regardless of party—must recognize this Constitutional crisis for what it is."

"At this point we should be well beyond partisanship," she added. "Members of Congress have sworn an oath to the Constitution. It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the President."

Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger, who sits on the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, shared an article about the case and tweeted: "After the attempted coup, this cannot happen."

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote: "If the Supreme Court adopts the so-called 'independent state legislature theory,' it will upend our elections and be the death of our democracy. Be warned."

"If accepted, this extreme theory would lay the groundwork to allow rogue state legislatures to overturn the will of the people in future elections," tweeted Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

Paul Begala, a former adviser to President Clinton, told CNN on Thursday that the independent legislature theory was "madness" and "dictatorship" when he was asked how people should react.

"I think they ought to be panic-stricken," Begala said. "I am a faithful, practicing Catholic as many members of the Court are. Catholics have this doctrine of papal infallibility in special cases."

"The court is looking to install politician infallibility," he said.

"The state legislatures' actions would not be reviewable by their own state's courts? That's dictatorship. That's madness," he said.

Begala went on: "Courts have reviewed state actions since the founding of the country, and now, all of a sudden, next year, they're gonna take it up next year, but you hide and wait. The Republicans seem to believe that democracy doesn't work for them, and so they're trying to end it any way that they can. The Supreme Court is the tip of that spear."

The Court's decision to hear Moore v. Harper comes as the January 6 committee continues to hold live hearings and more information has come to light about efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Former President Donald Trump wanted state legislatures to overturn the outcome of the election in November 2020, tweeting: "Hopefully the Courts and/or Legislatures will have the COURAGE to do what has to be done to maintain the integrity of our Elections, and the United States of America itself."

The Court will likely not hand down a decision in Moore until next year and it remains to be seen what impact it could have on the next presidential election.

The Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, has handed down a series of far-reaching decisions in the last few weeks, including overturning Roe v. Wade and dealing a blow to President Joe Biden's climate goals by ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency can no longer regulate the carbon emissions of U.S. power plants,

Signs Left Outside the Supreme Court
Signs left by abortion-rights supporters line the security fence surrounding The Supreme Court on June 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Court will hear a controversial elections case with potentially far-reaching implications. Nathan Howard/Getty Images