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Free Citizen

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

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Monday, April 20, 2009

South Carolina GOP Sues to Close Primaries to Dems

UPDATE: Ballot Access News reports that the case is named Harms v. Hudgens, 6:09-1022-HFF. The judge is Henry Floyd, who was appointed by George W. Bush. Click here for the 19-page PDF of the complaint.


For several years, there has been a movement among South Carolina Republicans against their state-mandated open primary, which forces them to let Democrats and other non-Republicans vote in GOP primaries. The Greenville County Republican Party on April 16 brought suit against the state election law in federal district court.

"A lawsuit [Republican county chairman Samuel] Harms filed in U.S. District Court in Greenville claims the South Carolina State Election Commission is violating his constitutional rights to free association and equal protection under the law.

"In the [2007] ruling, [the 4th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals] held that Virginia’s open-primary law wasn’t unconstitutional on its face because it allowed political parties to pick candidates in ways other than by a state-funded, open primary.

"That’s true, too, about South Carolina’s law, which allows political parties to nominate candidates by convention or open primary.

"Under South Carolina’s law, however, political parties can’t nominate candidates by convention unless three-fourths of the people at the convention vote to do that, according to Harms’ lawsuit."

In Virginia, incumbents decide whether they will be renominated by primary or some other method. The 4th Circuit said that, when an incumbent forces the party to hold a primary, the party, not the state, decides which voters are eligible to participate in that primary (Miller v. Cunningham).

It's my understanding that, for offices other than president, neither of South Carolina's two major parties has nominated by convention in years.

As in South Carolina, a local unit of the Virginia Republican Party filed the suit there. This insulates the state party against the expected anger and criticism (interestingly, 14 of the first 15 comments on the above-linked piece are negative to the lawsuit).

South Carolina is also part of the 4th Circuit.


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