The U.S. Supreme Court decided in Moore v. Harper on June 27, 2023, that state courts are a crucial component of our system of checks and balances for defending voters against legislative excess. This is crucial for Native voters who depend on state courts to challenge laws denying voting rights to Native communities.
In this instance, a select group of state lawmakers made a transparent attempt to usurp federal election lawmaking authority by arguing that there should be no monitoring or limitations on how they administer and implement federal election law.
Their radical Independent State Legislature Theory would have destroyed the checks and balances in the American system and given state legislators free rein to rig elections and threaten electoral integrity.
The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and 14 other organizations fighting injustice and discrimination filed an amicus curiae brief in Moore v. Harper. The brief argued that state courts and state constitutions offer crucial protections for voters—especially voters of color—against state voting regulations that may appear neutral but discriminate against a specific group of voters.
Native American voters who are challenging unjust state laws that limit their ability to vote must use state courts as a crucial instrument.
“This decision acknowledges the critical function of state courts in safeguarding voters’ constitutional rights. The foundation of American democracy is checks and balances. In numerous instances, both in the past and the present, state regulations that on the surface seemed nondiscriminatory made it more difficult, if not impossible, for Native people to register and cast ballots.
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According to NARF Staff Attorney Jacqueline De León, “Today’s judgment confirms state courts as a crucial tool for voters who are denied the right to vote by discriminatory state laws and regulations.
“Native voters, as well as other voters, won with this decision. Politicians must not be allowed to continue usurping the people’s power. Native voters previously put up a valiant struggle against barriers meant to silence them.
Despite the will of the people, those in power are making criminal attempts to undermine checks and balances to maintain their hold on power, according to NARF Executive Director John Echohawk.