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Free Citizen

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

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Monday, December 07, 2009

New Open Primary Suit in South Carolina

South Carolina, like Mississippi, is among the states with compulsory open primaries. Any party holding a primary is required by law to allow any voter to participate in that primary. Each voter picks a party on primary day.

Last April, the Republican Party of Greenville County filed a federal lawsuit against the Palmetto State's open primary law. The party wants to be able to block non-members from voting in GOP primaries. In August, however, the suit was inexplicably dropped.

Now comes the news that a new suit will soon be brought against the open primary law in behalf of the South Carolina Republican Party and its Greenville County affiliate. The current state GOP chairman is reportedly very much in favor of this action.

This suit, of course, parallels the one that the Mississippi Democrats filed in 2006. U. S. district judge Allen Pepper ruled our state-mandated open primary unconstitutional, but the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dismissed the case on procedural grounds (Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour).

Meanwhile, the challenge to Idaho's compulsory open primary is moving forward. U. S. district judge B. Lynn Winmill has ordered a trial in that case (Idaho Republican Party v. Ysursa).

I won't be surprised if the South Carolina case moves through the courts faster than the Gem State suit, as the trial will slow the Idaho case down. Also, South Carolina is part of the 4th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has already ruled, in a Virginia case, that, when a party is forced to nominate by primary, the party-- not the state-- determines who is eligible to vote in that primary (Miller v. Cunningham).


Anonymous Gregg Jocoy said...

South Carolina law does not require the Republican Party to nominate by primary. All ballot qualified parties in South Carolina have the option of nominating by primary or by convention.

Mon Dec 07, 09:54:00 PM CST  
Blogger Steve Rankin said...

As I understand it, a South Carolina party may opt out of holding a primary through a vote of at least 75% of the delegates to the party's convention.

When a party does hold a primary, the state mandates that it be open to all voters.

A party that nominates by convention runs the risk of alienating grassroots voters. Also, if all the candidates for a particular office run under the same party label, and that party nominates by convention, grassroots voters miss out on choosing that official.

Tue Dec 08, 11:17:00 PM CST  

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