Brief Fact Summary. The Appellee, the Republican Party of Connecticut (Appellee), wished to partially open its primary election, to allow independent voters to vote if they so wished, but this ran against the State’s election statutes, which required primary voters to be registered members of the party. The Appellants, Tasjian and others (Appellants), challenged this law, on the grounds that it abrogated their right to enter into political association with individuals of their choosing.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. This case stands for the proposition that a State cannot create a rule, which affects how a political party expresses itself.
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. The main issue of this case is whether a State, through its election scheme, can keep a political party from allowing independent voters to participate in its primary.
Writing for the Court, Justice Thurgood Marshall (J. Marshall) opined that the Appellee’s attempt to broaden its base and allow public participation and support for its activities was tantamount to an exercise of its right of association. Because Appellants could not give a substantial reason for enforcement of the statute, their action amounted to a violation of Appellee’s First Amendment freedom of association.
Dissent. Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) dissented, arguing that Article 1 Section:2 of the United States Constitution (Constitution) allows the States to run their own elections. Justice Antonin Scalia (J. Scalia) dissented, arguing the majority stretched the freedom of association to these facts, because independent voters, by necessity, are not associated with Appellees.
Discussion. Here, the State chose to regulate the party’s base for primaries, but the party wished to associate with independent voters, which was within its First Amendment rights.