The Supreme Court on Tuesday once again put on hold a judge’s order that relaxed election procedures because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the result will keep a referendum on partisan gerrymandering off the November ballot in Oregon.

The court’s brief order provided no reasoning, and the vote was unannounced. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor noted their dissent.

But the action was pretty much in line with similar cases from Alabama, Idaho, Wisconsin and elsewhere in which the court has put on hold court orders that provided pandemic-related relief over the objections of state election officials.

The court has said it disfavors judicial action that comes too close to an election, and defers to local control.

Supreme Court splits on pandemic-related relief in Idaho case

In this case, it was Oregon’s Democratic leaders who objected when a federal judge eased the requirements for a group called People Not Politicians. It wanted to put on the ballot a measure turning over redistricting decisions to an independent commission rather than the Oregon legislature.

The group said it was well on the way to getting the needed signatures when Oregon’s pandemic-related restrictions made petition drives virtually impossible. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane in Eugene agreed that it was because of the restrictions that the group fell short, and ordered the state to reduce the number of signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot.

The state’s Republican secretary of state, Beverly A. Clarno, appeared ready to accept the decision, but the state’s Democratic leaders stepped in to object.

“Despite the changes to our daily lives related to the pandemic, the signature and deadline requirements have not changed,” Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum wrote in a brief to the Supreme Court.

“It might mean that getting an initiative on the ballot in a particular year is extraordinarily challenging, owing to a pandemic or other natural disaster. But that does not violate the First Amendment, because there is no right to legislate by initiative in the first place,” she wrote.

The group and its supporters told the justices that agreeing to the state’s request would deny Oregon voters “a once-in-a-decade opportunity to decide whether to reform their state’s redistricting process.”

When the Supreme Court last year decided that federal courts had no role to play in disputes over gerrymandering, it said that one solution was for voters to take matters into their own hands and force their states to change redistricting procedures.

Supreme Court says federal courts don’t have role in gerrymandering disputes

The Oregon group was modeling its effort on a successful referendum in Michigan, just one of the states to take power away from legislators.

One issue in the case was whether Rosenblum had the power to intervene in the suit, since it was directed at Clarno, and she had decided not to appeal the lower court’s decision.

Justice Elena Kagan, who handles emergency requests from the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit, called for 100-word supplemental briefs on the question.

Rosenblum said Clarno had consented, even if grudgingly: “The secretary’s consent to the appearance should not be taken as her personal agreement as a policy matter with the stay application. The secretary did not request an appeal; she has deferred to the attorney general’s litigation decisions as the state’s chief legal officer.”

The group said that the attorney general doesn’t have legal standing in the case.

“Because the secretary does not want to proceed, the attorney general pursues this appeal for her own interests,” the group told the court.

The case is Clarno v. People Not Politicians.

The most important news stories of the day, curated by Post editors and delivered every morning.

By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Factbox: Biden, Sanders the last two standing in 2020 Democratic presidential race

(Reuters) – Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are the last White House candidates standing in the Democratic race to challenge Republican Donald Trump in November, after U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii on Thursday ended her longshot bid and endorsed…

Why it matters that we don’t know when Trump last tested negative

Something unusual happened early last week, one of those things that only in retrospect stands out as noteworthy. At a White House event centered on expanding rapid testing to schools and other facilities on Sept. 28, President Trump made some…

Warren calls on SEC to probe possible illegal trades after Trump reportedly reveals Iran action at Mar-a-Lago

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chris Van Hollen are asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether individuals obtained confidential market-moving information when President Trump allegedly hinted about the Soleimani strike to guests at his Florida resort. Democratic presidential candidate…

Navarro blames Pelosi for stalled negotiations on next round of coronavirus relief

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro weighs in on Democrats and Republicans being at odds over the next coronavirus relief bill on ‘America’s Newsroom.’ White House trade adviser Peter Navarro blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for the stalled negotiations…