“The provisions of the federal Constitution conferring on state legislatures, not state courts, the authority to make rules governing federal elections would be meaningless if a state court could override the rules adopted by the legislature simply by claiming that a state constitutional provision gave the courts the authority to make whatever rules it thought appropriate for the conduct of a fair election,” Justice Alito, joined by Justices Gorsuch and Thomas, wrote in a statement when the court refused to fast-track review of whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court could alter deadlines for mail ballots set by the legislature.
How U.S. Redistricting Works
Along the same lines, Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, wrote in a concurring opinion that “the Constitution provides that state legislatures — not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, not other state officials — bear primary responsibility for setting election rules.”
Justice Kavanaugh, in another concurring opinion, wrote that “under the U.S. Constitution, the state courts do not have a blank check to rewrite state election laws for federal elections.”
Several Supreme Court decisions cut in the opposite direction.
In 2019, for instance, when the Supreme Court closed the doors of federal courts to claims of partisan gerrymandering in Rucho v. Common Cause, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the five most conservative members of the court, said state courts could continue to hear such cases — including in the context of congressional redistricting.
“Our conclusion does not condone excessive partisan gerrymandering,” he wrote. “Nor does our conclusion condemn complaints about districting to echo into a void. The states, for example, are actively addressing the issue on a number of fronts.”
He gave an example: “In 2015, the Supreme Court of Florida struck down that state’s congressional districting plan as a violation of the Fair Districts Amendment to the Florida Constitution,” adding that “provisions in state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply.”
In 2015, in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the court ruled that Arizona’s voters were entitled to try to make the process of drawing congressional district lines less partisan by creating an independent redistricting commission notwithstanding the Elections Clause.