Guest: FairVote's David Daley on 'bonkers' Independent State Legislature theory's 'seismic consequences' as weighed by our corrupt High Court...
By Brad Friedman on 12/7/2022, 6:19pm PT  

Democracy had a good night in Georgia on Tuesday night, before facing a brand-new nightmare by Wednesday morning at the far-right U.S. Supreme Court. We cover both on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

The final votes of the 2022 midterms have at last been cast --- though some counting and recounting remains --- and Georgia's Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has been re-elected to his first full 6-year term in the U.S. Senate. His apparent defeat of Herschel Walker, loser Donald Trump's personally selected candidate in Tuesday's runoff election in the Peach State, caps a string of contests that the GOP arguably could have or should have won across the country in a midterm year like this one. But they chose to go with the far-right, loony-tunes candidates preferred by the disgraced former President instead.

After picking up a Senate seat this year, Democrats are set to hold an outright 51 to 49 majority in the upper chamber beginning in January, even as they narrowly lost their majority in the U.S. House. We discuss what all of that is likely to mean and review several remarkable historic milestones for Democrats in this year's anything-but-red-wave midterms.

After a late night of celebration, it was an early morning of worry, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard Moore v. Harper. We have long warned of the dangers of this case for American elections as we know them. The dispute comes from a challenge filed by North Carolina Republicans after the state's Supreme Court nixed partisan U.S. House maps gerrymandered by the state's GOP legislature. The state court ordered new, fair maps to be drawn instead for 2022, when Republicans and Democrats would evenly split the state's 14 House Districts, winning seven seats each in the closely divided state.

But state Republicans sued, arguing a novel, never-before-approved-by-SCOTUS legal theory they've recently discovered in the U.S. Constitution's Elections Clause called the "Independent State Legislature" theory. They argue that the Constitution mandates that state laws regarding federal elections may be created only by state Legislatures and that no judicial review by state courts is allowable.

That means, as argued in Moore, that partisan-gerrymandered Legislatures may create election laws that cannot be vetoed by Governors or overruled by state courts or constitutions. The theory holds that even voter-approved ballot initiatives could suddenly be found unlawful and those same state legislative bodies could also select whoever they wish to be Presidential Electors no matter who state voters actually selected. It is just that insane. But it's actually in front of a corrupted, stolen and packed right-wing SCOTUS on which a radical majority may offer its blessing.

"The blast radius from their theory would sow elections chaos," warned former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, one of the three attorneys who argued on behalf of respondents to NC's Republican petitioners, "forcing a confusing two track system with one set of rules for federal elections and another for state ones" with "case after case" being brought before SCOTUS challenging long-established election laws in all 50 states as adopted over the past 233 years.

Gerrymandering expert and author DAVID DALEY of FairVote was in the Courtroom to witness the proceedings at SCOTUS Wednesday morning and joined us this afternoon from the U.S. Capitol to help unpack it all.

"The consequences for this case are seismic," Daley warns. "This is yet another case that could shake the very foundation of our democracy if the court were to find that state legislatures face no constraints, either from a Governor's veto or from a state constitution, or the state Supreme Court, in how they create election law, how they certify elections, how they draw redistricting maps. It would give these state Legislatures complete, unfettered power to effectively do as they will. And that is a terrifying prospect."

We discuss what he describes as the "bonkers" ISL theory and whether, as AP argued today in its coverage, Daley agrees that there were "at least six Supreme Court justices" who "sound skeptical of making a broad ruling that would leave state legislatures virtually unchecked when making rules for elections for Congress and the presidency."

Says Daley, based on what he witnessed at the High Court this morning: "I would say that there were three Justices who were opposed --- the three liberals, Jackson, Sotomayor and Kagan. There were three who seemed very much on board in Thomas, Gorsuch and Alito. And there were three that I would define not as 'skeptical' but as 'Independent State Legislature-curious'. And I don't think they were looking for a way to knock a bonkers theory down."

Tune in for much more on today's program...

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