Independent state legislature theory could derail democracy

Adrienne Lawrence
Liberal Opinion

Adrienne Lawrence

Legal commentator
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Should state legislatures have the final say over federal elections? One of the most noteworthy cases coming before the Supreme Court this term is Moore v. Harper. The case revolves around an obscure interpretation of the Constitution known as the “independent state legislature theory,” which would lay ultimate power over governing federal elections, such as the upcoming midterms, in the hands of state legislators. Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence says the independent state legislature theory is a pure power play by the GOP that could derail democracy.

This independent state legislature doctrine is dangerous to democracy. It boxes out the judicial branch from deciding disputes on elections, allowing judges to throw up their hands and say lawmakers get the final say, completely disregarding states’ checks and balances. It also silences voters from having their will be done because their votes would be disregarded in favor of the candidate that lawmakers want to uplift. The doctrine also empowers losing candidates to try to steal future elections. 

All they need is the legislature on their side. That should terrify anybody who gives a damn about democracy. What’s the point of having the populace vote if some assemblyman gets to make the final call? That doesn’t seem like democracy to me. Perhaps that’s why the GOP is pushing so damn hard to rubber stamp this doctrine. In fact, Republicans would be the beneficiaries if the high court gave the independent state legislature doctrine the go-ahead. 

Why? Well, they currently dominate legislative branches at the state level. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, Republicans controlled 61% of state legislatures. That plays into the right’s willingness to push before SCOTUS and get them to bless this doctrine, meaning that GOP would be able to suppress the will of the people. The reality is that the vast majority of the masses do not have a mentality that aligns with the GOP. Their practices, they’re not reflective of the majority of the mindsets in our nation. From abortion, to Social Security, to health care, the people want a government who will invest in them. 

The GOP wants to invest in corporations and big money. So they work to silence voices by way of illegitimate and unconstitutional means, like the independent state legislature doctrine. And Republicans will be using it next week with the midterms. We can expect an uptick in litigation by the GOP over lost elections. 

Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has already indicated that she’s unwilling to bow out if she loses, taking a page out of Donald Trump’s book. If this right-winger loses she’s going to likely profess it was stolen from her in some way, surely citing the independent state legislature doctrine in court, hoping that there’s a judge out there willing to throw up their hands and say that the GOP-controlled state legislature in Arizona gets to make the final call. Even if that’s not the outcome, this is definitely going to delay the will of the people. 

The independent state legislature doctrine, it’s clearly an upshot of Trump’s antics. It’s the GOP just looking for yet another avenue as a way to stay in power, as opposed to letting the people determine how our nation should be governed and who should be leading us. 

Currently before the U.S. Supreme Court is the constitutionality of the so-called “independent state legislature doctrine.” 

Even though SCOTUS won’t rule on the matter before the midterms, this doctrine will appear in a host of legal disputes over the midterm elections. 

And it’s going to be held because the Republican Party is unwilling to concede when they’ve lost. Said another way, the GOP is looking for a way to undermine our democracy and plans to use this independent state legislature doctrine as a way to achieve that end. We should all beware.

If you’re unfamiliar of this doctrine, it’s an obscure legal theory. The theory says that state legislatures should have final say on how elections are conducted. It says that state legislatures should be able to have the final say on how elections are conducted in the state, unconstrained by the state constitutions and the courts. 

Basically, it gives state lawmakers the power to override election results in their states regardless of whether the election concerns a state or federal candidate. 

This independent state legislature doctrine is dangerous to democracy. It boxes out the judicial branch from deciding disputes on elections, allowing judges to throw up their hands and say lawmakers get the final say, completely disregarding states’ checks and balances. It also silences voters from having their will be done because their votes would be disregarded in favor of the candidate that lawmakers want to uplift. The doctrine also empowers losing candidates to try to steal future elections. 

All they need is the legislature on their side. That should terrify anybody who gives a damn about democracy. What’s the point of having the populace vote if some assemblyman gets to make the final call? That doesn’t seem like democracy to me. Perhaps that’s why the GOP is pushing so damn hard to rubber stamp this doctrine. In fact, Republicans would be the beneficiaries if the High Court gave the independent state legislature doctrine the go-ahead. 

Why? Well, they currently dominate legislative branches at the state level. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, Republicans controlled 61% of state legislatures. That plays into the right’s willingness to push before SCOTUS and get them to bless this doctrine, meaning that GOP would be able to suppress the will of the people. The reality is that the vast majority of the masses do not have a mentality that aligns with the GOP. Their practices, they’re not reflective of the majority of the mindsets in our nation. From abortion, to Social Security to health care, the people want a government who will invest in them. 

The GOP wants to invest in corporations and big money. So they work to silence voices by way of illegitimate and unconstitutional means, like the independent state legislature doctrine. And Republicans will be using it next week with the midterms. We can expect an uptick in litigation by the GOP over lost elections. 

Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has already indicated that she’s unwilling to bow out if she loses, taking a page out of Donald Trump’s book. If this right-winger loses she’s going to likely profess it was stolen from her in some way, surely citing the independent state legislature doctrine in court, hoping that there’s a judge out there willing to throw up their hands and say that the GOP-controlled state legislature in Arizona gets to make the final call. Even if that’s not the outcome, this is definitely going to delay the will of the people. 

The independent state legislature doctrine, it’s clearly an upshot of Trump’s antics. It’s the GOP just looking for yet another avenue as a way to stay in power, as opposed to letting the people determine how our nation should be governed and who should be leading us. 

And as wild and illegitimate as this doctrine is, the conservative majority on SCOTUS may just rubber-stamp it with approval. We already have an electoral college in place to subvert the will of the people. So what’s one more anti-democratic doctrine in a nation where democracy already dwindles?


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