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Free Citizen

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

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Selecting Versus Electing

Here's still another of my exchanges with Jim Riley of Texas. It begins with a reference to a U. S. district court's ruling on Washington state's Louisiana-style "top two" election system.[1] Jim's remarks are italicized.


“… because [Judge Thomas Zilly's] decision was based solely on the facial political association issues, he never addressed the ballot access or trademark claims, nor did the 9th Circuit or Supreme Court.”

Correct… and the Supreme Court, in a footnote (#11, I believe), listed the as-applied grounds on which the Washington state “top two” could be challenged in the future.

“Are you saying that primary, secondary, and even tertiary elections are not all integral parts of the election process?”

I’m saying that party primaries are for the purpose of selecting the parties’ candidates for the general election, just as are conventions, caucuses, and other less democratic methods of nomination. For 30-plus years now, the federal courts have been moving in the direction of greater autonomy for political parties. The Supreme Court struck down the state-mandated blanket primary[2] in California Democratic Party v. Jones, and I’m convinced, based on the reasoning in that case, that the justices will also strike down the state-mandated open (or pick-a-party) primary[3] when such a case reaches them.

In Jones, Justice Scalia, quoting from an earlier ruling, said that political parties have “the freedom to identify the people who constitute the association, and to limit the association to those people only.”

Also in Jones, Justice Scalia said, “… [S]electing the candidate of a group to which one does not belong… has been described… as a ‘desire’– and rejected as a basis for disregarding the First Amendment…”

You make it sound as though the election process is merely a matter of citizens continuing to cast ballots until only one candidate is left standing.


[1] All candidates, including independents, are listed on a single ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the runoff.

[2] All candidates of all parties are listed on a single primary ballot. There is no second primary, and the top vote-getter from each party moves on to the general election, where any independent candidates are also listed.

[3] This is the primary system now used by Mississippi and 20 other states. The parties hold separate primaries, and each voter picks a party on primary day.


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