Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin Follette, No. 79-1631

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEWART
Citation67 L.Ed.2d 82,101 S.Ct. 1010,450 U.S. 107
PartiesDEMOCRATIC PARTY OF the UNITED STATES of America et al., Appellants, v. WISCONSIN ex rel. Bronson C. LaFOLLETTE et al
Decision Date25 February 1981
Docket NumberNo. 79-1631

450 U.S. 107
101 S.Ct. 1010
67 L.Ed.2d 82
DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF the UNITED STATES of America et al., Appellants,

v.

WISCONSIN ex rel. Bronson C. LaFOLLETTE et al.

No. 79-1631.
Argued Dec. 8, 1980.
Decided Feb. 25, 1981.
Syllabus

Rules of the Democratic Party of the United States (National Party) provide that only those who are willing to affiliate publicly with the Democratic Party may participate in the process of selecting delegates to the Party's National Convention. Wisconsin election laws allow voters to participate in its Democratic Presidential candidate preference primary without regard to party affiliation and without requiring a public declaration of party preference. While the Wisconsin delegates to the National Convention are chosen separately, after the primary, at caucuses of persons who have stated their affiliation with the Democratic Party, those delegates are bound to vote at the Convention in accord with the results of the open primary election. Thus, while Wisconsin's open Presidential preference primary does not itself violate the National Party's rules, the State's mandate that primary results shall determine the allocation of votes cast by the State's delegates at the National Convention does. When the National Party indicated that Wisconsin delegates would not be seated at the 1980 National Convention because the Wisconsin delegate selection system violated the National Party's rules, an original action was brought in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of the State, seeking a declaration that such system was constitutional as applied to appellants (the National Party and Democratic National Committee) and that they could not lawfully refuse to seat the Wisconsin delegation. Concluding, inter alia, that the State had not impermissibly impaired the National Party's freedom of political association protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the State's delegate selection system was constitutional and binding upon appellants and that they could not refuse to seat delegates chosen in accord with Wisconsin law.

Held : Wisconsin cannot constitutionally compel the National Party to seat a delegation chosen in a way that violates the Party's rules. Cousins v. Wigoda, 419 U.S. 477, 95 S.Ct. 541, 42 L.Ed.2d 595, controlling. Pp. 120-126.

(a) The National Party and its adherents enjoy a constitutionally protected right of political association under the First Amendment, and-

Page 108

this freedom to gather in association for the purpose of advancing shared beliefs is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from infringement by any State, and necessarily presupposes the freedom to identify the people who constitute the association and to limit the association to those people only. Here, the members of the National Party, speaking through their rules, chose to define their associational rights by limiting those who could participate in any binding process leading to the selection of delegates to their National Convention. Pp. 120-122.

(b) Wisconsin's asserted compelling interests in preserving the overall integrity of the electoral process, providing secrecy of the ballot, increasing voter participation in primaries, and preventing harassment of voters, go to the conduct of the open Presidential preference primary, not to the imposition of voting requirements upon those who, in a separate process, are eventually selected as delegates. Therefore, such asserted interests do not justify the State's substantial intrusion into the associational freedom of members of the National Party. Pp. 124-126.

93 Wis.2d 473, 287 N.W.2d 519, reversed.

Ronald D. Eastman, Washington, D. C., for appellants.

Bronson C. LaFollette, Madison, Wis., pro se, and Robert H. Friebert, Milwaukee, Wis., for appellees.

Page 109

Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The charter of the appellant Democratic Party of the United States (National Party) provides that delegates to its National Convention shall be chosen through procedures in which only Democrats can participate. Consistently with the charter, the National Party's Delegate Selection Rules provide that only those who are willing to affiliate publicly with the Democratic Party may participate in the process of selecting delegates to the Party's National Convention. The question on this appeal is whether Wisconsin may successfully insist that its delegates to the Convention be seated, even though those delegates are chosen through a process that includes a binding state preference primary election in which voters do not declare their party affiliation. The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the National Convention is bound by the Wisconsin primary election results, and cannot refuse to seat the delegates chosen in accord with Wisconsin law. 93 Wis.2d 473, 287 N.W.2d 519.

I

Rule 2A of the Democratic Selection Rules for the 1980 National Convention states: "Participation in the delegate selection process in primaries or caucuses shall be restricted to Democratic voters only who publicly declare their party preference and have that preference publicly recorded." 1 Under-

Page 110

National Party rules, the "delegate selection process" includes any procedure by which delegates to the Convention are bound to vote for the nomination of particular candidates.2

The election laws of Wisconsin 3 allow non-Democrats—

Page 111

including members of other parties and independents—to vote in the Democratic primary without regard to party affiliation and without requiring a public declaration of party preference. The voters in Wisconsin's "open" 4 primary express their-

Page 112

choice among Presidential candidates for the Democratic Party's nomination; they do not vote for delegates to the National Convention. Delegates to the National Convention are chosen separately, after the primary, at caucuses of persons who have stated their affiliation with the Party.5 But these delegates, under Wisconsin law, are bound to vote at the National Convention in accord with the results of the open primary election.6 Accordingly, while Wisconsin's open Presidential preference primary does not itself violate National Party rules,7 the State's mandate that the results of the primary shall determine the allocation of votes cast by the State's delegates at the National Convention does.

In May 1979, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (State Party) submitted to the Compliance Review Commission of the National Party its plan for selecting delegates to the 1980 National Convention. The plan incorporated the provisions of the State's open primary laws, and, as a result the Commission disapproved it as violating Rule 2A.8 Since compliance with Rule 2A was a condition of participation at-

Page 113

the Convention, for which no exception could be made,9 the National Party indicated that Wisconsin delegates who were bound to vote according to the results of the open primary would not be seated.

The State Attorney General then brought an original action in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of the State. Named as respondents in the suit were the National Party and the Democratic National Committee, who are the appellants in this Court, and the State Party, an appellee here. The State sought a declaration that the Wisconsin delegate selection system was constitutional as applied to the appellants and that the appellants could not lawfully refuse to seat the Wisconsin delegation at the Convention. The State Party responded by agreeing that state law may validly be applied against it and the National Party, and cross-claimed against the National Party, asking the court to order the National Party to recognize the delegates selected in accord with Wisconsin law. The National Party argued that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments it could not be compelled to seat the Wisconsin delegation in violation of Party rules.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court entered a judgment declaring that the State's system of selecting delegates to the Democratic National Convention is constitutional and binding on the appellants. 93 Wis.2d 473, 287 N.W.2d 519. The court assumed that the National Party's freedom of political association, protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, gave it the right to restrict participation in the process of choosing Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates to Democrats. Id., at 511-512, 287 N.W.2d, at 536. It concluded, however, that the State had not impermissibly impaired that right. The court said that the State's primary election laws were themselves intended to permit persons to vote only for the candidates of the party they preferred, and-

Page 114

that, as a practical matter, requiring a public declaration of party affiliation would not prevent persons who are not Democrats from voting in the primary.10 Moreover, the court reasoned that to whatever extent appellants' constitutional freedom of political association might be burdened by the Wisconsin election laws, the burden was justified by the State's "compelling . . . interest in maintaining the special feature of its primary . . . which permits private declaration of party preference." Id., at 521, 287 N.W.2d, at 541.

The court declared that the votes of the state delegation at the National Convention for Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates must be apportioned and cast as prescribed by Wisconsin law, and that the State's delegates could not for that reason be disqualified from being seated at the Convention.11 The National Party and the Democratic National Committee then brought this appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1257(2).

Wisconsin held its primary on April 1, 1980, in accord with its election laws. Subsequently, the State Party chose delegates to the 1980 Democratic National Convention, in compliance with the order of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Wis.Stat. §§ 8.12(3)(b), (3)(c) 5 (1977). This Court noted...

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214 practice notes
  • Riley v. National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, Inc, No. 87-328
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 29, 1988
    ...view[s] a particular expression as unwise or irrational' ") (quoting Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette, 450 U.S. 107, 124, 101 S.Ct. 1010, 1020, 67 L.Ed.2d 82 (1981)); cf. First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 791-792, and n. 31, 98 S.Ct. ......
  • Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party, Nos. 06–713
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 18, 2008
    ...choose and to refrain from associating with persons whom they reject. Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette, 450 U.S. 107, 122, 101 S.Ct. 1010, 67 L.Ed.2d 82 (1981). Also included is the freedom to choose and promote the “ ‘standard bearer who best represents th......
  • Parson v. Alcorn, Civil Action No. 3:16cv13
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • January 15, 2016
    ...from “interfer[ing] on the ground that they view a particular expression as unwise or irrational.” La Follette, 450 U.S. at 123–24, 101 S.Ct. 1010 ; Tashjian, 479 U.S. at 224, 107 S.Ct. 544. Indeed, not long ago, the Fourth Circuit admonished the SBE that it must take care not to tread on a......
  • Campbell v. Bysiewicz, No. CIV.3:02-CV-00488 PC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • January 29, 2003
    ...an interference with the right of association of its members. See Democratic Party of the United States v. Wisconsin ex rel La Follette, 450 U.S. 107, 122, 101 S.Ct. 1010, 67 L.Ed.2d 82 (1981); Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 250, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311 (1957). That right is a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
212 cases
  • Riley v. National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, Inc, No. 87-328
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 29, 1988
    ...view[s] a particular expression as unwise or irrational' ") (quoting Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette, 450 U.S. 107, 124, 101 S.Ct. 1010, 1020, 67 L.Ed.2d 82 (1981)); cf. First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 791-792, and n. 31, 98 S.Ct. ......
  • Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party, Nos. 06–713
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 18, 2008
    ...choose and to refrain from associating with persons whom they reject. Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette, 450 U.S. 107, 122, 101 S.Ct. 1010, 67 L.Ed.2d 82 (1981). Also included is the freedom to choose and promote the “ ‘standard bearer who best represents th......
  • Parson v. Alcorn, Civil Action No. 3:16cv13
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • January 15, 2016
    ...from “interfer[ing] on the ground that they view a particular expression as unwise or irrational.” La Follette, 450 U.S. at 123–24, 101 S.Ct. 1010 ; Tashjian, 479 U.S. at 224, 107 S.Ct. 544. Indeed, not long ago, the Fourth Circuit admonished the SBE that it must take care not to tread on a......
  • Campbell v. Bysiewicz, No. CIV.3:02-CV-00488 PC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • January 29, 2003
    ...an interference with the right of association of its members. See Democratic Party of the United States v. Wisconsin ex rel La Follette, 450 U.S. 107, 122, 101 S.Ct. 1010, 67 L.Ed.2d 82 (1981); Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 250, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311 (1957). That right is a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • CUSTOMIZED SPEECH AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT.
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Technology Vol. 35 Nbr. 2, March 2022
    • March 22, 2022
    ...or a court, may not constitutionally substitute its own judgment for that of the Party.'" (quoting Democratic Party of U.S. v. Wisconsin, 450 U.S. 107, 123-24 (1981))). (104.) See Tornillo, 418 U.S. at 256 (quoting Associated Press, 326 U.S. at 20 n.18). (105.) ROBINSON, supra note 1, at 45......
  • The Conceptualization and Measurement of Crossover Voting
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 41-1, March 1988
    • March 1, 1988
    ...the Democratic Party’s Reform Rules." American Political Science Review 70 (June): 536-41. Democratic Party of U.S. v. LaFollette. 1981. 101 S. Ct. 1010. Hedlund, Ronald D. 1978. "Crossover Voting in a 1976 Open Presidential mary." Public Opinion Quarterly 41 (Winter): 498-514. Meredith W. ......

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