Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party

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Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party presents a question to the U.S. Supreme Court about elections and the First Amendment rights of political parties:[1]


No. 06-713

In California Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U.S. 567, 585-586 (2000), this Court specified how States could structure a top-two primary system that does not violate the associational rights of a political party. Pursuant to the Initiative power which the People of the State of Washington reserved to themselves in their State Constitution, the voters of the State of Washington enacted a top-two primary law that the Washington State Grange had drafted to comply with Jones. That law makes the State primary a contest to select the two most popular candidates for the November ballot - regardless of party nominations or party selection. That law also allows candidates for certain offices to disclose on the ballot the name of the party (if any) which that candidate personally prefers.
The Ninth Circuit invalidated this top-two primary system in its entirety, holding that the First Amendment (applied to the States through the 14th Amendment) prohibits a State from so allowing a candidate to disclose the name of the party he or she personally prefers on the ballot.
Does the First Amendment prohibit top-two election systems that allow a candidate to disclose on the ballot the name of the party he or she personally prefers?


06-730

In California Democratic Party v. Jones, this Court recognized that, consistent with the First Amendment rights of political parties, a state may adopt a primary election system in which all voters may participate and the top vote recipients advance to the general election, so long as “primary voters are not choosing a party’s nominee.” California Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U.S. 567, 585-86 (2000). Washington voters adopted a primary election system in which all qualified voters are allowed to vote for any candidate, and the two candidates receiving the most votes for a given office qualify for the general election ballot, without regard to party affiliation.
Does Washington’s primary election system in which all voters are allowed to vote for any candidate, and in which the top two candidates advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation, violate the associational rights of political parties because candidates are permitted to identify their political party preference on the ballot?

References

  1. Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party, Nos. 06-713 and 06-730. Certiorari granted Feb. 26, 2007. The ruling below in both cases was by the Ninth Circuit, 460 F.3d 1108.
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