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California Democratic Party v. Jones

Citation. 22 Ill.530 U.S. 567, 120 S. Ct. 2402, 147 L. Ed. 2d 502 (2000)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Petitioners, the California Democratic Party, the California Republican Party, the Libertarian Party of California and the Peace and Freedom Party (Petitioners), brought suit alleging that California’s change to a blanket primary election violated their First Amendment freedoms of association.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Political parties cannot be compelled to open their primaries to members of other parties.


In 1996, California changed to a blanket primary system, wherein all persons entitled to vote could vote for any candidate, regardless of their political affiliation. The Petitioners brought suit, alleging the primaries would be diluted and that their associations would have less impact on the determination of political candidates. The District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed that the burden on the rights of association were not severe. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) granted certiorari.


This case considers whether the rights of a political association to exclude are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, under their freedom of association.


The court held that the prospect of having a party’s candidate chosen by members of an opposing party violated that party’s First Amendment constitutional right of association because the association was not given the freedom to exclude non-members from affecting the outcome of their own primary.


Judge John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) dissented, arguing that a State’s power to determine how elections are to be run is an attribute of its sovereignty, which should not be overlooked.
Concurrence. Justice Anthony Kennedy (J. Kennedy) concurred, maintaining that blanket primaries give the state more control over political parties, which, by their nature are unaffiliated associations.


In this case, the Court creates a negative right of association, or the right “not to associate”.

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