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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Federal Court Hears Idaho Open Primary Case

Here's a good article on Idaho's party primary system and the Republican Party's lawsuit.


On February 18, a U. S. district judge in Boise heard oral argument in the Idaho Republican Party's suit against the Gem State's primary election law (Idaho Republican Party v. Ysursa). The party wants to be able to enforce its rule that says that only Republicans may vote in Republican primaries.

"If U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill agrees, Idaho would have to scrap a decades-old system that allows voters to cast either a Democratic or Republican ballot in primary elections."

There's little doubt that the district court's ruling will be appealed to the Ninth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"... members of the Republican Party’s conservative wing claim that crossover voting by Democrats and independents could dilute the party’s role in selecting candidates, alter candidates’ campaign message and help elect more moderate Republicans.

"[GOP lawyer] Troupis also contends that Idaho’s open primary system violates the First Amendment right to free association. Troupis said the open primary forces party members to associate with nonmember voters who don’t share the same enthusiasm for party rules, core interests or achieving party goals.

"The party 'wants to identify the persons who want to associate with the Idaho Republican Party as members of the party, and limit the participation in the selection of its candidates to members of the Party,' Troupis wrote..."

"Harry Kresky, an attorney representing independent voters, said Idaho independents would be harmed by having to publicly register with a party just to take part in an election. He has previously argued that a closed primary would close out a voting bloc that wouldn’t want to register and makes up about a third of Idaho’s electorate."

Why should people who steadfastly refuse to register with a party be allowed to help choose that party's nominees-- unless the party invites them to do so?

"'There is simply no precedent for a political party dictating to a state the kind of primary a state should run to avoid free association' conflicts, Kresky said."

The state may require a party to nominate by primary, but there are indeed precedents that say the state does not have carte blanche to dictate the nature of the primary (actually, no federal court has ever said that states may require parties to nominate by primary).

It's not known which way Judge Winmill will turn (yuk-yuk).

Click here for Ballot Access News's post on the hearing, which predicts that the judge will rule in a month or two. My comments are No. 5 and No. 7.


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