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.
The Court noted that a nonmember's desire to participate in the party's affairs is overborne by the countervailing and legitimate right of the party to determine its own membership qualifications.View Full Point of Law
Issue. 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.
Dissent. 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.
Discussion. In this case, the Court creates a negative right of association, or the right “not to associate”.