Foster v. Love

PETITIONER: Foster
RESPONDENT: Love
LOCATION: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

DOCKET NO.: 96-670
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 522 US 67 (1997)
ARGUED: Oct 06, 1997
DECIDED: Dec 02, 1997

ADVOCATES:
M. Miller Baker - on behalf of the Respondents
Richard I. Ieyoub - on behalf of the Petitioners
Richard P. Ieyoub - for petitioners

Facts of the case

The Elections Clause of the Constitution provides that "the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations." 2 USC sections 1 and 7 provide that the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in an even-numbered year is established as the date for federal congressional and presidential elections. In 1975, Louisiana adopted an "open primary," which occurs before the uniform federal election day and in which all candidates appear on the ballot and all voters may vote. If a candidate for a given office receives a majority at the open primary, that candidate is elected and no further act is done on federal election day to fill that office. Louisiana voters challenged the open primary is a violation of federal law. Reversing the District Court, the Court of Appeals held that Louisiana's system squarely "conflicts with the federal statutes that establish a uniform federal election day."

Question

Does Louisiana's open primary violate the federal statutes that establish a uniform federal election day?

Media for Foster v. Love

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 06, 1997 in Foster v. Love

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 96-670, Murphy Foster v. Scott Love.

Spectators are admonished not to talk until you get out of the courtroom.

The Court remains in session.

General Ieyoub.

Richard I. Ieyoub:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

This is the Federal Election Day case up from Louisiana.

As Your Honors know, the 42nd Reconstruction Congress put the Federal Election Day statute on the books in 1872.

The question presented is whether the Federal Election Day statute nullifies Louisiana's open primary system under which all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, vote for their candidates for Senate and United States Representative.

Under Louisiana law as we know it since 1976, if a candidate receives a majority of the votes in the October primary the candidate is declared elected, and there's no contested election on Federal Election Day, shall we say saving the poor working man a trip to the polls in nonpresidential election years.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

General Ieyoub, does any other State, to your knowledge, have this system?

Richard I. Ieyoub:

Yes, Your Honor.

Oklahoma has a similar system, as does Hawaii, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And they each provide, as Louisiana does, for an open primary and no general election if a candidate gets a majority?

Richard I. Ieyoub:

Yes, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Now, California has a system, I believe, of allowing crossover voting in primary elections, is that right?

Richard I. Ieyoub:

I'm not sure, Your Honor.

I believe that's correct.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And some States allow crossover voting.

In other words, there's a primary election to pick the party's candidate, but parties... people who belong to another political party may cross over and vote--

Richard I. Ieyoub:

Yes, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--in the party primary.

Richard I. Ieyoub:

Yes, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

But in effect Louisiana and you say several other States don't treat the primary election as a party primary.

Richard I. Ieyoub:

No, Your Honor, it does not.

Everyone has a right to vote in the open primary in October, regardless of party affiliation.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mm-hmm.

Richard I. Ieyoub:

And all candidates run in the primary regardless of the party affiliation, so that if there is not a majority vote, then the two top vote-getters go into--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And why is it that Louisiana made that change?

I guess it was not always that way.

It wasn't until the late seventies.