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South Carolina Government Files Brief in Open Primary Lawsuit

On March 31, South Carolina election officials filed their Fourth Circuit brief in Greenville County Republican Party v Way, 13-2170. The issue whether the Greenville County Republican Party has standing to challenge state laws that require parties to nominate by open primary, unless three-fourths of the party’s convention delegates approve using a convention and unless the voters who vote in that open primary also approve switching to a convention.

The government brief insists that the Greenville County Republican Party does not have standing to challenge the open primary, because the state Republican Party is not a co-plaintiff. The government does not mention the U.S. Supreme Court opinion San Francisco County Democratic Central Committee v Eu, in which various county organizations of the Democratic Party, and a single county organization of the Republican Party, won a lawsuit against California election laws that told parties how to structure themselves, and told them they could not endorse candidates in their own primaries.

The Greenville County Republican Party also complains that even when it pays for its own municipal primaries, it is still required to open its primary to all voters, not just party members. But the government’s brief says South Carolina law lets parties nominate by convention in municipal elections, so the party isn’t being required to hold a city primary.

One Response

  1. Jim Riley

    County offices in California are nonpartisan. Even when legislative and congressional districts are contained within a single county, they can not be considered county elections. The only partisan elections conducted on a county basis in California are those for party offices.

    The political association issues at stake in San Francisco County Democratic Central Committee v Eu were not related to the conduct of the primaries for state, legislative, or congressional officials. They were related to the conduct of the internal affairs of the political parties.

    The standing issue was more thoroughly discussed in the 9th Circuit decision, than that by the SCOTUS. The 9th Circuit reasoned that the state parties could not be considered to have voluntarily adopted state laws, since they necessarily had to do so in order to be a recognized party. Further, the Libertarian Party State Central Committee was a named plaintiff.

    The Greenville County GOP is incapable of conducting a statewide primary, and the state party has the capability to opt out of holding a primary for its nominations, and chose to drop out of the current lawsuit.

    The City of Greenville is not required to hold partisan elections. Given the control of the city government by the Republican party, holding partisan elections should be considered a case of the county party of inflicting the harm on itself. If Greenville were to switch to nonpartisan elections, like are used in most South Carolina municipal elections, the local party would be free to support any candidates, and make that decision in any they chose.

    But their reasoning is that without the partisan primary they would lose control of who voters could vote for.

    Clearly the solution is for South Carolina to follow the lead of Louisiana, Washington, and California and adopt the Open Primary.

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