Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut, No. 85-766

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA
PartiesJulia H. TASHJIAN, Secretary of State of Connecticut, Appellant v. REPUBLICAN PARTY OF CONNECTICUT et al
Docket NumberNo. 85-766
Decision Date10 December 1986

479 U.S. 208
107 S.Ct. 544
93 L.Ed.2d 514
Julia H. TASHJIAN, Secretary of State of Connecticut, Appellant

v.

REPUBLICAN PARTY OF CONNECTICUT et al.

No. 85-766.
Argued Oct. 8, 1986.
Decided Dec. 10, 1986.

Syllabus

A Connecticut statute (§ 9-431), enacted in 1955, requires voters in any political party primary to be registered members of that party. In 1984, appellee Republican Party of Connecticut (Party) adopted a Party rule that permits independent voters registered voters not affiliated with any party—to vote in Republican primaries for federal and statewide offices. The Party and the Party's federal officeholders and state chairman (also appellees) brought an action in Federal District Court challenging the constitutionality of § 9-431 on the ground that it deprives the Party of its right under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to enter into political association with individuals of its own choosing, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The District Court granted summary judgment in appellees' favor, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held:

1. Section 9-431 impermissibly burdens the rights of the Party and its members protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 213-225.

(a) The freedom of association protected by those Amendments includes partisan political organization. Section 9-431 places limits upon the group of registered voters whom the Party may invite to participate in the "basic function" of selecting the Party's candidates. The State thus limits the Party's associational opportunities at the crucial juncture at which the appeal to common principles may be translated into concerted action, and hence to political power in the community. The fact that the State has the power to regulate the time, place, and manner of elections does not justify, without more, the abridgment of fundamental rights, such as the right to vote or, as here, the freedom of political association. Pp. 213-217.

(b) The interests asserted by appellant Secretary of State of Connecticut as justification for the statute—that it ensures the administrability of the primary, prevents voter raiding, avoids voter confusion, and protects the integrity of the two-party system and the responsibility

Page 209

of party government—are insubstantial. The possibility of increases in the cost of administering the election system is not a sufficient basis for infringing appellees' First Amendment rights. The interest in curtailing raiding is not implicated, since § 9-431 does not impede a raid on the Republican Party by independent voters; independent raiders need only register as Republicans and vote in the primary. The interest in preventing voter confusion does not make it necessary to burden the Party's associational rights. And even if the State were correct in arguing that § 9-431 in providing for a closed primary system is designed to save the Party from undertaking conduct destructive of its own interests, the State may not constitutionally substitute its judgment for that of the Party, whose determination of the boundaries of its own association and of the structure that best allows it to pursue its political goals is protected by the Constitution. Pp. 217-225.

2. The implementation of the Party rule will not violate the Qualifications Clause of the Constitution—which provides that the House of Representatives "shall be composed of Members chosen . . . by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature"—and the parallel provision of the Seventeenth Amendment, because it does not disenfranchise any voter in a federal election who was qualified to vote in a primary or general election for the more numerous house of the state legislature. The Clause and the Amendment are not violated by the fact that the Party rule establishes qualifications for voting in congressional elections that differ from the qualifications in elections for the state legislature. Where state law, as here, has made the primary an integral part of the election procedure, the requirements of the Clause and the Amendment apply to primaries as well as to general elections. The achievement of the goal of the Clause to prevent the mischief that would arise if state voters found themselves disqualified from participating in federal elections does not require that qualifications for exercise of the federal franchise be precisely equivalent to the qualifications for exercising the franchise in a given State. Pp. 225-229.

770 F.2d 265 (CA2 1985), affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined, post, p. 230. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 234.

Page 210

Elliot F. Gerson, Hartford, Conn., for appellant.

David S. Golub, Stamford, Conn., for appellees.

Stephen E. Gottlieb, Albany, for James McGregor Burns.

Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellee Republican Party of the State of Connecticut (Party) in 1984 adopted a Party rule which permits independent voters registered voters not affiliated with any political party—to vote in Republican primaries for federal and state-wide offices. Appellant Julia Tashjian, the Secretary of the State of Connecticut, is charged with the administration of the State's election statutes, which include a provision requiring voters in any party primary to be registered mem-

Page 211

bers of that party. Conn.Gen.Stat. § 9-431 (1985).1 Appellees, who in addition to the Party include the Party's federal officeholders and the Party's state chairman, challenged this eligibility provision on the ground that it deprives the Party of its First Amendment right to enter into political association with individuals of its own choosing. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of appellees. 599 F.Supp. 1228 (Conn.1984). The Court of Appeals affirmed. 770 F.2d 265 (CA2 1985). We noted probable jurisdiction, 474 U.S. 1049, 106 S.Ct. 783, 88 L.Ed.2d 762 (1986), and now affirm.

I

In 1955, Connecticut adopted its present primary election system. For major parties,2 the process of candidate selection for federal and statewide offices requires a statewide convention of party delegates; district conventions are held to select candidates for seats in the state legislature. The party convention may certify as the party-endorsed candidate any person receiving more than 20% of the votes cast in a roll-call vote at the convention. Any candidate not endorsed by the party who received 20% of the vote may challenge the party-endorsed candidate in a primary election, in which the candidate receiving the plurality of votes becomes the party's nominee. Conn.Gen.Stat. §§ 9-382, 9-400, 9-444 (1985). Candidates selected by the major parties, whether through convention or primary, are automatically accorded a place on the ballot at the general election.

Page 212

§ 9-379. The costs of primary elections are paid out of public funds. See, e.g., § 9-441.

The statute challenged in these proceedings, § 9-431, has remained substantially unchanged since the adoption of the State's primary system. In 1976, the statute's constitutionality was upheld by a three-judge District Court against a challenge by an independent voter who sought a declaration of his right to vote in the Republican primary. Nader v. Schaffer, 417 F.Supp. 837 (Conn.), summarily aff'd, 429 U.S. 989, 97 S.Ct. 516, 50 L.Ed.2d 602 (1976). In that action, the Party opposed the plaintiff's efforts to participate in the Party primary.

Subsequent to the decision in Nader, however, the Party changed its views with respect to participation by independent voters in Party primaries. Motivated in part by the demographic importance of independent voters in Connecticut politics,3 in September 1983 the Party's Central Committee recommended calling a state convention to consider altering the Party's rules to allow independents to vote in Party primaries. In January 1984 the state convention adopted the Party rule now at issue, which provides:

"Any elector enrolled as a member of the Republican Party and any elector not enrolled as a member of a party shall be eligible to vote in primaries for nomination of candidates for the offices of United States Senator, United States Representative, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of the State, Attorney General, Comptroller and Treasurer." App. 20.

During the 1984 session, the Republican leadership in the state legislature, in response to the conflict between the newly enacted Party rule and § 9-431, proposed to amend the statute to allow independents to vote in primaries when permitted by Party rules. The proposed legislation was de-

Page 213

feated, substantially along party lines, in both houses of the legislature, which at that time were controlled by the Democratic Party.4

The Party and the individual appellees then commenced this action in the District Court, seeking a declaration that § 9-431 infringes appellees' right to freedom of association for the advancement of common political objectives guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and injunctive relief against its further enforcement. After discovery, the parties submitted extensive stipulations of fact to the District Court, which granted summary judgment for appellees. The District Court concluded that "[a]ny effort by the state to substitute its judgment for that of the party on . . . the question of who is and is not sufficiently allied in interest with the party to warrant inclusion in its candidate selection process . . . substantially impinges on First Amendment rights." 599 F.Supp., at 1238. Rejecting the state interests proffered by appellant to justify the statute,...

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445 practice notes
  • True The Vote v. Hosemann, C.A. No. 3:14–CV–532–NFA.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • August 29, 2014
    ...but has been cautious to circumscribe, the States' powers over the conduct of elections. See, e.g., Tashjian v. Republican Party of Conn., 479 U.S. 208, 217, 107 S.Ct. 544, 93 L.Ed.2d 514 (1986) (upholding, against a First Amendment challenge, defendant's rule permitting independent voters ......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Case No. 3:11–0692.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • February 3, 2012
    ...Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U.S. 567, 574, 120 S.Ct. 2402, 147 L.Ed.2d 502 (2000); see also Tashjian v. Republican Party of Conn., 479 U.S. 208, 214, 107 S.Ct. 544, 93 L.Ed.2d 514 (1986) (recognizing as fundamental “ ‘[t]he right to associate with the political party of one's choice’ ”) ......
  • Democratic-Republican Org. of N.J. v. Guadagno, Case No. 3:12–cv–05658.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • October 11, 2012
    ...running for county office may adopt the name of a party established only in the city”); Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut, 479 U.S. 208, 107 S.Ct. 544, 93 L.Ed.2d 514 (1986) (challenge to state election law provision “requiring voters in any party primary to be registered members ......
  • Riley v. National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, Inc, No. 87-328
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 29, 1988
    ...speakers, not the government, know best both what they want to say and how to say it. See Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut, 479 U.S. 208, 224, 107 S.Ct. 544, 554, 93 L.Ed.2d 514 (1987) (criticizing State's asserted interest in protecting "the Republican party from undertaking a c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
443 cases
  • True The Vote v. Hosemann, C.A. No. 3:14–CV–532–NFA.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • August 29, 2014
    ...but has been cautious to circumscribe, the States' powers over the conduct of elections. See, e.g., Tashjian v. Republican Party of Conn., 479 U.S. 208, 217, 107 S.Ct. 544, 93 L.Ed.2d 514 (1986) (upholding, against a First Amendment challenge, defendant's rule permitting independent voters ......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Case No. 3:11–0692.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • February 3, 2012
    ...Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U.S. 567, 574, 120 S.Ct. 2402, 147 L.Ed.2d 502 (2000); see also Tashjian v. Republican Party of Conn., 479 U.S. 208, 214, 107 S.Ct. 544, 93 L.Ed.2d 514 (1986) (recognizing as fundamental “ ‘[t]he right to associate with the political party of one's choice’ ”) ......
  • Democratic-Republican Org. of N.J. v. Guadagno, Case No. 3:12–cv–05658.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • October 11, 2012
    ...running for county office may adopt the name of a party established only in the city”); Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut, 479 U.S. 208, 107 S.Ct. 544, 93 L.Ed.2d 514 (1986) (challenge to state election law provision “requiring voters in any party primary to be registered members ......
  • Riley v. National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, Inc, No. 87-328
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 29, 1988
    ...speakers, not the government, know best both what they want to say and how to say it. See Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut, 479 U.S. 208, 224, 107 S.Ct. 544, 554, 93 L.Ed.2d 514 (1987) (criticizing State's asserted interest in protecting "the Republican party from undertaking a c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Justice Antonin Scalia, Constitutional Discourse, and the Legalistic State
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 44-4, December 1991
    • December 1, 1991
    ...v. United States, 626 F. Supp. 1374 (D.D.C. 1986). Tayflin v. Levitt, 110 S. Ct. 792 (1990).Tashjian v. Republican Pary of Connecticut, 107 S. Ct. 544 (1986). j Taylor v. United States, 110 S. Ct. 2143 (1990). Thompson v. Clark, 741 F.2d 401 (D.C. Cir. 1984). . ’j _ Thompson v. Oklahoma, 10......

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