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U.S. Supreme Court

Tashjian v. Republican Party, 479 U.S. 208 (1986)

Tashjian, Secretary of State of Connecticut v.

Republican Party of Connecticut

No. 85-766

Argued October 8, 1986

Decided December 10, 1986

479 U.S. 208


A Connecticut statute (§ 9-431), enacted in 1956, 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.


1. Section 9-431 impermissibly burdens the rights of the Party and its members protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 479 U. S. 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. 479 U. S. 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 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 479 U. S. 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. 479 U. S. 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. 479 U. S. 225-229.

770 F.2d 265, 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. 479 U. S. 230. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 479 U. S. 234. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 479 U. S. 210

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