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Upcoming SCOTUS arguments center on election authority

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Mike Moen

(Minnesota News Connection) Coming off a string of controversial opinions, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a case tied to oversight of federal elections. That has pro-democracy groups worried. 

The case stems from North Carolina, where Republicans want a ruling from that state's high court tossed out. It had to do with a map of political boundaries drawn by the GOP that opponents say was gerrymandered. 

Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera - executive director of the non-partisan Common Cause Minnesota - said even though that case involves redistricting, there are broader implications as these Republicans seek to diminish the role of state constitutions in elections.

"Mail-in ballot deadlines can be impacted," said Belladonna-Carrera. "Election schedules and processes are impacted by this."

She said while Minnesota has enjoyed strong voter-access policies, along with high turnout in elections, there are some conservative lawmakers here who have pushed for restrictive laws.

The current balance of power in state government has prevented such proposals from advancing. 

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs say the Constitution's elections clause bolsters their argument. 

Belladonna-Carrera said Minnesota might not align with other states where "bad-actors" have tried to influence election procedures. But she said she feels a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would produce more chatter here and elsewhere about testing the so-called "independent state legislature" theory.

"I think that what we're seeing is part of a broader attack on an inclusive democracy, right?" said Belladonna-Carrera. "It's part of that power grab that has devastating consequences."

To counteract that, she said Minnesota has an extensive non-partisan movement to spur voter engagement and showcase fair elections. Arguments in the Supreme Court case are expected in October. 

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.