FROM:   Kim Alexander, CVF President
DATE:   April 25, 2000
RE:   CA's "Open Primary Before U.S. Supreme Court

Hi Folks,

By now many of you have heard that California's "open primary" law (technically a blanket primary) is being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday the justices heard arguments put forth by representatives of the state, who defended the law (which was enacted by voters as Prop.198 in 1996), and attorneys arguing against the law, representing several major and minor political parties.

It is a fascinating debate and the justices must weigh the rights of voters to decide the rules of political engagement against the rights of political parties to decide how their nominees are selected. This debate can get confusing because there are two different kinds of "open primaries" -- California's primary is a blanket primary, which means voters can vote for different candidates of different parties in the same election. The more common type of open primary is one where a voter must choose which party's ballot to vote on election day, and can vote for only those candidates of that party. This distinction between a blanket and open primary was important to the justices, who seemed less bothered by an open primary where voters affiliate with a specific party for at least a day. Only three other states -- Alaska, Louisiana and Washington -- have the same kind of blanket primary as California.

A decision isn't expected until summer, and though the questions raised by the justices yesterday left many observers concluding that the court may rule against California's blanket primary, it's not clear whether such a ruling would impact the more common open primary system operating in many states.

There's lots of interesting coverage in the news today on yesterday's hearing. For more info, take a look at:

SF Chronicle/Mark Sandalow:

LA Times/David Savage:

Sacramento Bee/Herb Sample:

NPR/Nina Totenberg (audio):

That's all the news for today -- have a great week!

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This page was first published on April 25, 2000 | Last updated on April 26, 2000
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