Debevoise Files Amicus Brief in Support of Checks and Balances for Federal Election Rules on Behalf of Senator Klobuchar and Nineteen Senators

31 October 2022

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP has filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and nineteen other United States Senators in Moore v. Harper, a voting rights case that has profound implications for our democracy. The case asks the Court to decide whether state legislatures can make rules for federal elections without being subject to checks by the other branches of the state government. Amici, led by Senator Klobuchar, write in support of the Respondents to explain that state legislatures, like Congress, are constrained by ordinary checks and balances when regulating federal elections.

Drawing from foundational documents and case law, the brief argues that Congress’ role under the elections clause is not to replace the ordinary system of separation of powers that state constitutions establish to check state legislative overreach. Just as the elections clause does not allow Congress to override the ordinary system of checks and balances when regulating federal elections, it also does not allow state legislatures to bypass ordinary lawmaking procedures, including judicial review. When Congress exercises its power to “alter” state election regulations, Congress assumes that those regulations are the final word of the state as sovereign, not the unilateral action of the state legislature.

In an article highlighting the brief, the New York Times described the senators’ involvement in this case as “part of a fight against continuing threats to democracy” and noted that Senator Klobuchar led her colleagues in “filing this amicus brief to urge the Supreme Court to ensure that state legislatures remain bound by checks and balances in their state constitutions.” The Supreme Court is set to hear argument in Moore v. Harper in early December.

The Debevoise team is led by partner litigation David O’Neil and associate Anagha Sundararajan, along with associates Benjamin Leb, Evelin Caro Gutierrez, and Elizabeth White.