Could the Supreme Court Make Dozens of State Election Laws Unconstitutional?

On March 2, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which will decide whether Arizona voters had the power - through a citizen ballot initiative - to establish an independent redistricting commission to draw the state’s congressional maps every ten years.

The case could invalidate congressional redistricting commissions in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey, and Washington. Depending on how the court rules could throw into doubt the tie-breaking procedures used in four states to resolve legislative deadlocks over maps. A measure approved by Florida voters in 2010 to tighten redistricting standards also could be at risk. 

The ramifications of the case extend beyond redistricting, however. The Arizona Legislature's constitutional challenge to the commission is based on the Constitution’s Elections Clause and contends that the clause should be read to mean that the “times, places and manner” of federal elections can be set only by state legislatures or by Congress. That clause governs not just redistricting plans but a wide range of laws related to federal elections. If Arizona’s independent commission is struck down as unconstitutional, dozens of other state laws also could be at risk. These include 21 state laws adopted by ballot initiative and another 45 that needed approval by voters via a legislative referendum or constitutional amendment. Examples of such laws include Mississippi's voter identification law, Oregon's vote by mail ballot elections, and Ohio's ban on straight party voting. In short, the ruling, expected in late spring or this summer, could be a blockbuster.

States With Laws at Risk

Explanatory Note: In some instances, the election laws at risk were adopted through voter initiated ballot measures. In other cases, the laws originated in the legislature but needed approval from voters, either as a legislative referendum or constitutional amendment, before taking effect. Depending on how expansive a ruling in favor of the Arizona legislature is, both sets of laws could be at risk.

Status Key: 

States With Election Laws Passed by Ballot Initiative

States With Election Laws Passed by Legislative Referendum or Constitutional Amendment

States With Both Types of Laws

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