Court Rejects Conn. Law Restricting Party Primary Voters

1986

In Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court looks at the constitutionality of a Connecticut law that requires voters in any political party primary to be registered members of that party. In 1984, the Connecticut Republican 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 then challenged the Connecticut law in federal district court 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.

The Supreme Court finds that the law denies the party and its members of the right to freedom of association by limiting the number of registered voters whom the party may invite to participate in the “basic function” of selecting the party’s candidates. But the Court finds that the party rule does not violate the qualifications clause of the Constitution or the 17th Amendment. 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.