Thursday, August 31, 2006

Major Preliminary Victory in Fight for Closed Primaries

Ben Tribbett reports favorably on the Fourth Circuit's decision yesterday (.pdf file) to reverse Eastern District of Virginia Judge Henry Hudson's dismissal of a challenge to Virginia's open primary law. The Jaded JD predicted this (four out of six right), and has apparently delayed his impending retirement from the blogosphere to post his comments here, and an analysis of the possible consequences of a favorable decision below here. The reporting by Ben and JD is good; they avoid the pitfall of declaring total victory, as the decision only reverses Judge Hudson's determination that the plaintiffs lacked standing and the dispute was not ripe for decision. The case will now be remanded to Judge Hudson for a decision on the merits.

This is a significant advance for those (like yours truly and the aforementioned young Mr. Tribbett, with whom I am in accord on this issue) who believe that parties should nominate their own candidates without interference from individuals affiliated with other parties. The only surprise to me (and to JD, who predicted otherwise), is that the Fourth Circuit did not proceed to issue a decision on the merits, which appears to be a pure question of law. C'est la vie. Probably just a function of that court's natural conservatism.

A favorable decision on the merits may well provide the impetus for Virginia legislators finally to permit registration by party. At the same time, it may well remove any vestigial authority (more in theory than in practice) for local party organs to discipline their own members, since individuals who stray from the Party path will always be able to point to their "registered [Party]" status, if party registration is enacted. One can hope that the result will be better, more defined choices among candidates, in lieu of the "Repubmocrat" campaigns run by all too many candidates for public office.

Congratulations to State Senator Ken Cuccinelli, who argued the case on behalf of Chairman Larry Miller and his 11th Senatorial District Republican Committee, and former Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat McSweeney, who was on the brief.

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