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Greenville County Republican Party Files Opening Brief in Fourth Circuit in Open Primary Lawsuit

On January 27, the Greenville County, South Carolina, Republican Party filed its opening brief in the Fourth Circuit. The case is Greenville County Republican Party v Way, 13-2170. The issue is whether the county Republican Party may prevent non-Republicans from voting in its primaries, especially its municipal primaries.

In South Carolina, in cities with partisan city elections, political parties still pay for their own primaries. The party rents the polling places, hires individuals to adminster the election during the hours the polls are open, and pays individuals to count the votes. The party argues vociferously that, therefore, it has a right to limit voters in its primaries to party members. The brief presents evidence that officers of the Democratic Party, and even two state Democratic legislators, have voted in recent Republican primaries. The brief also presents evidence that tens of thousands of voters who voted in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary then voted in the following Republican county and city primaries.

The brief also argues that the state law making it very difficult for the county party to switch to nominating by convention is too restrictive. The state law says that if a state party, or a county party, wants to nominate by convention instead of primary, the resolution authorizing such a change must be approved by 75% of all the delegates to the party convention, whether they are present in the room or not.

Finally, the brief argues that a county political party does have standing to challenge the various election laws governing open primaries, because it is county parties, and also city parties, who administer the primaries for county and city office. The U.S. District Court had dismissed the lawsuit because it felt only a state party has standing to challenge the laws. Originally the state Republican Party had been a co-plaintiff, but during the course of the litigation in U.S. District Court, the state party dropped out of the lawsuit, after a new state chair replaced the former state chair.

4 Responses

  1. Jim Riley

    So a party in a county that doesn’t contain a city with partisan elections wouldn’t have standing?

    And the county party want a federal judge to dictate the rules for nominating by convention? What would John C Calhoun say?

    South Carolina should take advantage of the interregnum of Section 5 and update its election laws.

    • In Eu v San Francisco County Central Committee, various county organizations of the Democratic and Republican Party in California had standing to challenge state laws that dictated to state parties that they had to rotate the chair between the north and the south, and other restrictions on party autonomy. The state Democratic and Republican Parties were not plaintiffs.

      • Jim Riley

        The SCOTUS decision in ‘Eu v San Francisco County Central Committee’ did not address the issue of standing, but the 9th Circuit opinion in the case did.

        The county central committees were also affected by the restrictions. In particular, county parties would be more interested in making endorsements in local non-partisan races.

        California had claimed that it was party rules set by the state parties that were restricting the county parties. The court rejected that argument, noting that the state party was enforcing dictates in California law. And besides the court noted one of the plaintiffs was a state central committee (which you are no doubt aware based on your wording of your last sentence).

        California’s laws with respect to party governance are particularly egregious because they are specific to each party. The legislature’s reaction to ‘Eu’ should have been to rip out Division 7, and put in place sensible requirements for party governance.

        The appeals court noted the State’s interest is in orderly elections, not orderly parties. The law being challenge in South Carolina is one regulating elections, not internal party governance.

        The fundamental cause of the entanglement of political parties and state governments is partisan primaries. Do you not agree?

        The solution is to get rid of partisan primaries. Why don’t you agree.

  2. Demo Rep

    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

    NO primaries by robot party hack regimes.

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