In this essay, Professor Morley explains that states generally conduct their elections in a “unitary” manner, applying many of the same rules, requirements, and procedures to races for offices at all levels of government. Morley argues that the unitary status of American elections has evolved into a convention: a principle that people expect to limit government officials’ discretion, despite not being constitutionally required. A few states have begun to challenge the convention of unitary elections. They have engaged in uncooperative federalism by imposing different rules for state and local elections than federal law establishes for federal races. Morley concludes that, while such changes constitute a sharp break from states’ consistent practice over the past decades, they are a valid exercise of states’ constitutional prerogatives. Congress’ authority over state and local elections, Morley demonstrates, is far narrower than its virtually plenary power over congressional and presidential elections. States therefore have discretion to protect the integrity of their state and local elections by imposing safeguards and requirements beyond those Congress has chosen to establish for federal elections.
Can states strip their legislatures of congressional redistricting authority?