Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette

PETITIONER: Democratic Party of the United States
RESPONDENT: Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette
LOCATION: 1980 Democratic National Convention, Madison Square Garden

DOCKET NO.: 79-1631
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Wisconsin Supreme Court

CITATION: 450 US 107 (1981)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1980
DECIDED: Feb 25, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Bronson C. La Follette - on behalf of the Appellees
Bronson C. Lafollette - pro se, and Robert H
Ronald E. Eastman - on behalf of the Appellants
Ronald D. Eastman - for appellants
Robert H. Friebert - on behalf of the Appellees

Facts of the case

The Democratic Party of the United States (National Party) required that delegates sent to its National Convention were chosen exclusively by voters affiliated with the party, but the state of Wisconsin allowed non-Democrats to participate in state primaries. In the primary, voters expressed their choice among Presidential candidates for the Democratic Party's nomination. Although the Wisconsin Democratic Party (State Party) selected delegates at a caucus occurring after the primary, Wisconsin law required these delegates to allot their votes at the National Convention in accord with the amount of support each candidate received in the primary. The National Party prohibited the State Party delegates from participating in the 1980 National Convention because of non-Democrat influence in the state primary. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the National Party must admit the delegates since Wisconsin had a "compelling interest" to maintain the "open" feature of its primary system.

Question

Can a state compel a National Party Convention to admit delegates from its state if those delegates were selected in a manner violating the National Party's rules?

Media for Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1980 in Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 25, 1981 in Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Democratic Party of the United States against La Follette will be announced by Justice Stewart.

Potter Stewart:

This case is here on appeal from the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

The charter of the Democratic Party of the United States 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.

For the reasons set out at some length in the opinion of the Court filed today, the judgement is reversed.

Justice Powell has filed a dissenting opinion which Justice Blackmun and Justice Rehnquist have joined.