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Mon Jun 26 18:18:23 PDT 2000

D- Crank up your favorite election methods to abolish ALL primaries/ 

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Argued April 24, 2000  -- Decided June 26, 2000

Opinion author: Scalia



One way that candidates for public office in California gain

access to the general ballot is by winning a qualified

political party's primary.  In 1996, Proposition 198 changed

the State's partisan primary from a closed primary, in which

only a political party's members can vote on its nominees, to a

blanket primary, in which each voter's ballot lists every

candidate regardless of party affiliation and allows the voter

to choose freely among them.  The candidate of each party who

wins the most votes is that party's nominee for the general

election.  Each of petitioner political parties prohibits

nonmembers from voting in the party's primary. They filed suit

against respondent state official, alleging, inter alia, that

the blanket primary violated their First Amendment rights of

association.  Respondent Californians for an Open Primary

intervened.  The District Court held that the primary's burden

on petitioners' associational rights was not severe and was

justified by substantial state interests.  The Ninth Circuit


Held:  California's blanket primary violates a political

party's First Amendment right of association.  Pp. 4-19.

    (a)  States play a major role in structuring and monitoring

the primary election process, but the processes by which

political parties select their nominees are not wholly public

affairs that States may regulate freely.  To the contrary,

States must act within limits imposed by the Constitution when

regulating parties' internal processes.  See, e.g., Eu v. San

Francisco County Democratic Central Comm., 489 U.S. 214. 

Respondents misplace their reliance on Smith v. Allwright, 321

U.S. 649, and Terry v. Adams, 345 U.S. 461, which held not that

party affairs are public affairs, free of First Amendment

protections, see, e.g., Tashjian v. Republican Party of Conn.,

479 U.S. 208, but only that, when a State prescribes an

election process that gives a special role to political

parties, the parties' discriminatory action becomes state

action under the Fifteenth Amendment.  This Nation has a

tradition of political associations in which citizens band

together to promote candidates who espouse their political

views. The First Amendment protects the freedom to join

together to further common political beliefs, id., at 214-215,

which presupposes the freedom to identify those who constitute

the association, and to limit the association to those people,

Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La

Follette, 450 U.S. 107, 122.  In no area is the political

association's right to exclude more important than in its

candidate-selection process.  That process often determines the

party's positions on significant public policy issues, and it

is the nominee who is the party's ambassador charged with

winning the general electorate over to its views.  The First

Amendment reserves a special place, and accords a special

protection, for that process, Eu, supra, at 224, because the

moment of choosing the party's nominee is the crucial juncture

at which the appeal to common principles may be translated into

concerted action, and hence to political power, Tashjian,

supra, at 216. California's blanket primary violates these

principles.  Proposition 198 forces petitioners to adulterate

their candidate-selection process--a political party's basic

function--by opening it up to persons wholly unaffiliated with

the party, who may have different views from the party.  Such

forced association has the likely outcome--indeed, it is

Proposition 198's intended outcome--of changing the parties'

message.  Because there is no heavier burden on a political

party's associational freedom, Proposition 198 is

unconstitutional unless it is narrowly tailored to serve a

compelling state interest.  See Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New

Party, 520 U.S. 351, 358.  Pp. 4-14. 

    (b)  None of respondents' seven proffered state

interests--producing elected officials who better represent the

electorate, expanding candidate debate beyond the scope of

partisan concerns, ensuring that disenfranchised persons enjoy

the right to an effective vote, promoting fairness, affording

voters greater choice, increasing voter participation, and

protecting privacy--is a compelling interest justifying

California's intrusion into the parties' associational rights. 

Pp. 14-18.

169 F.3d 646, reversed.

Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which

Rehnquist, C. J., and O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, and

Breyer, JJ., joined.  Kennedy, J., filed a concurring opinion. 

Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, J.,

joined as to Part I.

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