May 28, 2024

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The Legal System

The ‘Independent State Legislature Theory,’ Explained

The ‘Independent State Legislature Theory,’ Explained

The Constitutional Convention

There’s a thread that links the partisan gerrymandering of congressional maps in North Carolina, attempts to dissolve the Wisconsin Election Commission, and efforts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. In each case, the participants have invoked a dubious interpretation of the Constitution called the “independent state legislature theory.”

Long relegated to the fringe of election law, the theory will soon be front and center before the Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear a case concerning the North Carolina congressional maps in the fall. If the Supreme Court were to adopt the theory, it would radically change our elections.

What is the independent state legislature theory?  

The independent state legislature theory is a reading of the Constitution, pushed in recent years by a small group of advocates, that would give state legislatures wide authority to gerrymander electoral maps and pass voter suppression laws. It has even been used as political cover to try to overturn elections.

The Constitution delegates power […]