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Free Citizen

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

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Graham Slams GOP Open Primary Lawsuit

Click here for the 19-page PDF of the complaint in the suit.


Republican U. S. senator Lindsey Graham has criticized the Greenville County Republican Party's lawsuit against South Carolina's mandated open primaries. State law requires a party holding a primary to let any registered voter participate in that primary.

"The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by attorney and GOP chair Samuel Harms, seeks to block Democrats from voting in Republican primary elections."

If the state law is ultimately found to be unconstitutional, each of the state's parties will be able to determine which voters are eligible to participate in its primaries.

"Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop said the senator was surprised to hear the county party wants 'an un-elected federal judge to legislate from the bench.'

"'As a conservative, he believes this is an issue that should be decided by our elected state Legislature and governor,' Bishop said."

Graham, in jumping onto the popular side of this issue, sounds like his good friend, Senator John McCain, who strongly favors open primaries. As a lawyer, however, Graham surely must know that the courts have issued numerous decisions on state election laws. The U. S. Supreme Court has not yet heard a case challenging an open primary law, but when it does, the high court may well hand down a landmark ruling.

"If the lawsuit succeeds, state election law would have to be changed to require South Carolinians to disclose their party affiliation when registering to vote, Harms said."

That would certainly be likely, as party registration is the most practical way of identifying voters' party preferences. But it's not the only way.

Only one court has ever ordered a state to register voters by party, and that ruling was dismissed on appeal.[1] The courts' proper role is to decide the constitutionality of laws, and it's up to each state as to whether party registration is enacted.


[1] Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour (2008)


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