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Independent State Legislature Theory Undermines Elections Principles

Washington, DC – Following the Supreme Court’s decision to hear Moore v. Harper, one of the more consequential cases in recent years, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Structural Democracy Project released their latest report, Independent State Legislature Theory Undermines Elections Principles. The report focuses on three principles that are essential for U.S. election administration and how the implementation of the independent state legislature (ISL) theory would upend them.  

“The independent state legislature theory runs contrary to our long understanding of how the rules for elections are established and election officials will be in no position to apply the kind of discretion that allows our elections to work,” said Michael Thorning, director of Structural Democracy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Were the Supreme Court to embrace the bizarre idea that state legislatures can act outside the boundaries of their own state constitutions, the U.S. election system would suffer greatly.” 

The three principles are: 

  • Principle 1: State legislatures cannot move quickly enough to establish statutes, regulations, or guidance for elections in the heat of election cycles when legislatures are out of session. 
  • Principle 2: State constitutions, voter-enacted initiatives, and state courts—in addition to state legislatures—have legitimate roles in shaping voting and the administration of elections. 
  • Principle 3: The voting experience is smoother and election administration is more efficient when each state has uniform rules and practices for state and federal elections. 

If the ISL theory is endorsed by the Supreme Court in maximal form, it could not be limited to state legislative control over redistricting. It would extend to all aspects of state regulation of federal elections under the Elections Clause, possibly creating a massive disruption to voting just before a contentious 2024 election cycle.   

Read the full report here. 

For questions or to speak with Michael Thorning, contact Senior Manager of Media Relations Kyle Fischer. 

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