Tashjian, Secretary of State of Connecticut v. Republican Party of Connecticut

PETITIONER: Tashjian, Secretary of State of Connecticut
RESPONDENT: Republican Party of Connecticut
LOCATION: Craig, Colorado

DOCKET NO.: 85-766
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 479 US 208 (1986)
ARGUED: Oct 08, 1986
DECIDED: Dec 10, 1986

ADVOCATES:
David S. Golub - on behalf of the Appellees
Elliot F. Gerson - on behalf of the Appellant
Stephen E. Gottlieb - for James McGregor Burns

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Tashjian, Secretary of State of Connecticut v. Republican Party of Connecticut

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 08, 1986 in Tashjian, Secretary of State of Connecticut v. Republican Party of Connecticut

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments next in No. 85-766, Julia H. Tashjian, Secretary of State of Connecticut, versus Republican Party of Connecticut, et al.--

Mr. Gerson, you may proceed when you are ready.

Elliot F. Gerson:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case involves a conflict between Section 9-431 of the Connecticut General Statutes which requires that persons be enrolled members of a political party when they vote in that party's primary election, and a rule adopted by the Republican Party of the State of Connecticut that would, contrary to that state law, allow unaffiliated voters to vote in Republican primaries for United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, Governor, and certain other state executive offices.

The rule would not, however, apply to other elective offices in the state, including state house and state senate.

The issues in this appeal are whether this law, which sets voter qualifications in a major party state primary is unconstitutional simply because a state party adopts a conflicting rule, and whether the particular rule adopted by the appellee party in this case is itself violative of Article 1, Section 2, and the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution.

When Connecticut enacted its primary electoral scheme, which has now been in effect for greater than 30 years, the legislature thoroughly debated the implications of the various electoral codes that had already been adopted in the various states.

Connecticut, in fact, was one of the last states to adopt a primary.

The legislature selected a system that recognized the important role played by major political parties in the electoral and governmental process.

The legislature sought, while opening up the process to the party rank and file, to at the same time maintain party responsibility and accountability by limiting participation in primary voting to party members.

The legislature thus struck a balance between a convention system and a wide open direct primary.

Simply stated, the law in this case allows a candidate of a major party in Connecticut who obtains 20 percent of a roll call vote at a party convention to wage a primary in which all party members may participate.

Connecticut law further provides for automatic and preferential ballot access for major parties.

The primaries in Connecticut are financed by the state and its towns and administered by the state and its towns, and enrollment is a very simple process involving completion of a short form up to noon the last business day before the primary.

The basic point--

William H. Rehnquist:

When you say enrollment, is that synonymous with registration?

Elliot F. Gerson:

--It is synonymous with participation in a party primary.

William H. Rehnquist:

It is enrollment for the convention, not for primary voting?

Elliot F. Gerson:

It is enrollment for purposes of the primary.

William H. Rehnquist:

Does it differ in some way from what in other states would be called registration to vote in the primary?

Elliot F. Gerson:

No, it does not.

There is registration to vote as an elector in the general elections, but enrollment refers to enrollment in a party which allows one to participate in the party primary.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Oh, I see--

--You mean the person has to elect a party affiliation at that time in order to vote in the primary of that party.

Elliot F. Gerson:

That's correct.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

You have to say, I am a Republican and I want to vote in the Republican primary, for example.

Elliot F. Gerson:

Justice O'Connor, a simple form simply requires statement of name and address and a desire to enroll in that party for purposes of that primary.

William H. Rehnquist:

So under Connecticut terminology you register to vote in a general election but you enroll to vote in the primary?

Elliot F. Gerson:

Yes, Mr. Chief Justice.

Enrollment is enrollment in a party list which allows one to vote in a party primary.

William H. Rehnquist:

Do you have to be already registered to vote in the general election to enroll and successfully vote in the primary?