Democratic Party of Hawaii Files Lawsuit to Close Primaries

1531-b8ecb76c5c29108c1d3e9c2213ac316317a5ac6f97eabb459ae26030_w-1024_px-e1373560035892
144
INTERACTIONS

onetwothree.v2
After years of discussion, the Democratic Party of Hawaii (DPH) filed a federal lawsuit in June seeking to invalidate the state’s open primary laws, claiming they violate the party’s First Amendment right to free association.

The lawsuit alleges that allowing every registered voter, regardless of political affiliation, to participate in primaries unconstitutionally compels the party to associate with people who influence the outcome of nominations, even though they “may not be members of the party, may have no affiliation with the party, may not sympathize with the political aims and goals of the party, may actually be hostile to goals and aims of the party, and cannot be known to the party either before or after the primary election.”

A preliminary injunction was also filed seeking to prevent the state from holding an open primary.

The DPH has stated that since 2006, they would like to close the state’s open primary system, but in 2008, state Democrats voted to rescind a call for the party to file a lawsuit.

The party seems to be divided on the issue, with prominent elected officials, including Governor Neil Abercrombie, on record stating opposition to closing the primaries.

“I do not support the lawsuit,” said Abercrombie. “The Demo­cratic Party has always been inclusive, drawing strength from bringing together a diversity of people and perspectives.”

IndependentVoting.org caught wind of the lawsuit and raised money for a half-page ad to be run in Sunday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser stating that requiring party registration would end political privacy.

The group’s president, Jacqueline Salit, said that “the lawsuit would narrow the democratic process,” adding that while there have been similar attempts by the GOP, “this is the first time in recent history that a state Democratic party has taken this action.”

According to the DPH chairman, Dante Carpenter, a closed primary helps to prevent someone from voting for a less desirable candidate to improve the chances of a candidate in another party:

“The lawsuit isn’t about excluding voters, but ensuring Democrats are selected at the primary stage by those willing to identify as Democrats.”

Voters approved the open primary system in 1978 and the constitution was amended to state:

“Secrecy of voting shall be preserved; provided that no person shall be required to declare a party preference or non-partisanship as a condition of voting in any primary or special primary election. Secrecy of voting and choice of political party affiliation or non-partisanship shall be preserved.”

Photo Credit: civilbeat.com

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


Learn More About IVN

Leave a Comment
  1. Dodi McClellan Nolly Delaware is a state where we who are registered independents are not able to vote in primary elections. This makes no sense to me at all. In my humble opinion, Independents are more thoughtful about issues than those who are registered Rep or Dem. It's easy to follow one party. All the thinking has been done for you. They provide the koolaid and one only need drink it. Independents are the thinkers. Not easy to be an Independent because we actually have to gather unbiased information, analyze it, and come to our own conclusion. I would think they would be the perfect voters in all elections.
  2. Ben Hardin Freedom of association or non-association doesn’t even need to be an issue. Let the Dems and the Repubs have their primaries on their own dime to decide who they might rally behind in what should be the only official route to the general election ballot; a nonpartisan primary that narrows to choices, not to the top two but to the top few. Then in the general election the winner from among the remaining few candidates could be elected through a system of something like ranked preference in which the winning candidate would receive either a majority vote or be chosen as the most acceptable compromise as defined through a computer algorithm.
  3. Roz Bachman Oh, and just for the record...I don't believe I have ever voted exclusively for one party in a General Election...I vote for whom I believe is the best person for the job!
  4. Roz Bachman Heather Loughran gives a perfectly concise explanation of the purpose of Primaries! Well said HML! There are, however, many different types of "primary elections": Closed, SemiClosed, Open, SemiOpen, Blanket, Partisan, NonPartisan! The Closed makes the most sense in most cases...again, the whole idea of a primary is to narrow the choices for the General Election... BUT in lower government races like City, Township, County or in organizations where Political Party Affiliation has little import, like School Board, I think Non Partisan may be a better (and already widely utilized) choice. It still always amazes me how so many people are willing to "complain" about something (ie.Open Primaries) and yet I'd bet if you asked them what it really means they wouldn't be able to tell you! They see or hear the word Open or Closed and think that some big Political Bad Guy is keeping someone Out of voting! THAT would be another and entirely different point to debate, yes!?!
  5. Merrijo Cavanaugh free election! everyone should be able to vote for who they want without any sort of affiliation being directed at them.
  6. Robert Hughes A political party is a privately owned business. We the people have no right to change their primaries. They run their political party and change their bylaws anyway they see fit under the constitution and it makes no difference if it's funded by tax payer dollars. The people can write in any candidate they want in the general election, the people can start a new political party, and we have the option not to participate or vote for that political party.
  7. Heather Loughran And I'm and independent! Yeesh.
  8. Heather Loughran One again IVN, you miss the concept of why we hold primaries. They are designed so that the political parties can vote on who they want to represent them. The Democrats are essentially getting together and saying, this is who we want to represent US,the democratic party. Why should someone who is not a member of that party, get a say in who represents it? Why should a Republican decide who should be representing the Democrats by being allowed to vote in the democratic party's primary? That goes for independents as well. Independents should not be able to say " I'm not a Republican, but I want to choose who represents the republican party, a party I am not a part of." The democrats as a group, get together and decide who among them gets to represent the whole. If you are not among them, (ie. an independent or Republican,) you don't get a say. That's what GENERAL elections are for. After the parties decide who their candidates for the offices are, the entire population gets to choose. And of course, all voters now get a say. If you are an independent and you do not like the candidates the parties present, DON'T VOTE FOR THEM. It's very simple. And if you think someone else is a better choice, campaign for them to appear on the general election ballot. If they are party affiliated, encourage them to run in that party's PRIMARY! Get it now guys? If you are still confused, visit Wikipedia. Either that, or you should have paid attention in high school government class.
  9. Don Heath Simple, no political parties.
  10. Al Chaney It's been law since 1978 and now you want to change it when it don't suit you, go can go to hell.
35 comments
Dodi McClellan Nolly
Dodi McClellan Nolly

Delaware is a state where we who are registered independents are not able to vote in primary elections. This makes no sense to me at all. In my humble opinion, Independents are more thoughtful about issues than those who are registered Rep or Dem. It's easy to follow one party. All the thinking has been done for you. They provide the koolaid and one only need drink it. Independents are the thinkers. Not easy to be an Independent because we actually have to gather unbiased information, analyze it, and come to our own conclusion. I would think they would be the perfect voters in all elections.

Ben Hardin
Ben Hardin

Freedom of association or non-association doesn’t even need to be an issue. Let the Dems and the Repubs have their primaries on their own dime to decide who they might rally behind in what should be the only official route to the general election ballot; a nonpartisan primary that narrows to choices, not to the top two but to the top few. Then in the general election the winner from among the remaining few candidates could be elected through a system of something like ranked preference in which the winning candidate would receive either a majority vote or be chosen as the most acceptable compromise as defined through a computer algorithm.

Roz Bachman
Roz Bachman

Oh, and just for the record...I don't believe I have ever voted exclusively for one party in a General Election...I vote for whom I believe is the best person for the job!

Roz Bachman
Roz Bachman

Heather Loughran gives a perfectly concise explanation of the purpose of Primaries! Well said HML!

There are, however, many different types of "primary elections": Closed, SemiClosed, Open, SemiOpen, Blanket, Partisan, NonPartisan! The Closed makes the most sense in most cases...again, the whole idea of a primary is to narrow the choices for the General Election...

BUT in lower government races like City, Township, County or in organizations where Political Party Affiliation has little import, like School Board, I think Non Partisan may be a better (and already widely utilized) choice.

It still always amazes me how so many people are willing to "complain" about something (ie.Open Primaries) and yet I'd bet if you asked them what it really means they wouldn't be able to tell you! They see or hear the word Open or Closed and think that some big Political Bad Guy is keeping someone Out of voting! THAT would be another and entirely different point to debate, yes!?!

Merrijo Cavanaugh
Merrijo Cavanaugh

free election! everyone should be able to vote for who they want without any sort of affiliation being directed at them.

Robert Hughes
Robert Hughes

A political party is a privately owned business. We the people have no right to change their primaries. They run their political party and change their bylaws anyway they see fit under the constitution and it makes no difference if it's funded by tax payer dollars. The people can write in any candidate they want in the general election, the people can start a new political party, and we have the option not to participate or vote for that political party.

Heather Loughran
Heather Loughran

One again IVN, you miss the concept of why we hold primaries.

They are designed so that the political parties can vote on who they want to represent them. The Democrats are essentially getting together and saying, this is who we want to represent US,the democratic party. Why should someone who is not a member of that party, get a say in who represents it? Why should a Republican decide who should be representing the Democrats by being allowed to vote in the democratic party's primary? That goes for independents as well. Independents should not be able to say " I'm not a Republican, but I want to choose who represents the republican party, a party I am not a part of."

The democrats as a group, get together and decide who among them gets to represent the whole. If you are not among them, (ie. an independent or Republican,) you don't get a say.

That's what GENERAL elections are for. After the parties decide who their candidates for the offices are, the entire population gets to choose. And of course, all voters now get a say.

If you are an independent and you do not like the candidates the parties present, DON'T VOTE FOR THEM. It's very simple. And if you think someone else is a better choice, campaign for them to appear on the general election ballot. If they are party affiliated, encourage them to run in that party's PRIMARY!

Get it now guys? If you are still confused, visit Wikipedia. Either that, or you should have paid attention in high school government class.

Don Heath
Don Heath

Simple, no political parties.

Al Chaney
Al Chaney

It's been law since 1978 and now you want to change it when it don't suit you, go can go to hell.

David Gerald
David Gerald

If a party wants a closed primary let them pay for it. BUT what stops people from voting against candidates they don't like to prevent them running against the one they like .

Holly Stowe
Holly Stowe

Caroline, I highly doubt that anyone from another party specifically votes to "negatively affect the nominee" of the other party. In an open primary a registered Republican (or democrat) will want to have a say in getting their candidate of choice the nomination rather than wasting a vote on the worst of the opposing party. An open primary though does allow registered independents to vote for the candidate of their choice from either side of the fence while a closed primary doesn't give them a vote at all (unless they want to continually re-register year-after-year. And no one should have to do that.

Randy Newman
Randy Newman

Imagine that a party named Democratic wants to quash FREE Elections

Holly Stowe
Holly Stowe

Only an open primary system allows true freedom of choice in electing candidates for the people. And in no way does an open primary system violate the democrat party's "free association", forcing them to associate with people who are not members of that party. But if it does, then I suppose they don't want nor appreciate the votes of people who choose to be independent of either party, nor do they want the vote of a moderate republican who might not appreciate the slate of republican candidates. Democrats only want to "associate" with their own political ideologues: no others need apply.

Dale A. Schoening
Dale A. Schoening

Well, that's bizarre. They don't want to associate with people who aren't members of the party, yet want us to vote for their candidates in the general election. And we continue to put up with the Republocrats and Demopublicans why?

Ken Snyder
Ken Snyder

Open primary. Hope to get better people no matter what or if a political affiliation

Al Lawrence
Al Lawrence

always open ulike what we have in florida

Merréll Barry O'Brian
Merréll Barry O'Brian

Yes, and now, the governors of the red states can further consolidate their power with the fall of the Voter's Rights Act.

Caroline Andrews
Caroline Andrews

I'm torn about this. In an open primary, with a concerted effort, voters from one party can negatively affect the nominee of another party.

Gershon Holton
Gershon Holton

I live in Hawaii and it is like a Banana republic when it comes to corruption ..

Mark N. Dfw
Mark N. Dfw

Weren't they the ones who wanted open primaries back then?

Lloyd Ritchey
Lloyd Ritchey

i find it hilarious that a political party which wholly supports compulsory unionization is speaking of "voluntary"association.

The Moderate Independent
The Moderate Independent

Would be better if there were NO political parties... But if there must be, they should have their own elections paid for by their organizations (like most third parties have to select their own candidates).

Sarge Froehle
Sarge Froehle

Any election that is paid for by the taxpayers MUST be open to all registered voters. Closed primaries funded by the taxes is basically funding a political parties' which is not legal.

John Weavers
John Weavers

How is it fair or right that a full third of voters have no say in who the candidates are. The Dems and Reps can both stick it where the sun don't shine.

Matthew Crockett
Matthew Crockett

It's a steaming load of crap. Involuntary association is exactly what They seek to perpetuate by forcing on people the idea that they have to associate with either Democrats or Republicans. Some people have an infinite ability to spew lies if it will allow them to get what they want.

Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith

100% correct. Each Major Party should only be allowed one candidate.

Andrew Walden
Andrew Walden

“this is the first time in recent history that a state Democratic party has taken this action.”

Nonsense.

If IV.org had bothered to read the Hawaii Dems lawsuit, they would see that it is based in large part on a similar suit won in 2000 by California Dems. Is 2000 'recent history'?

Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier

just because the rules don't inordinately favor the parties, doesnt mean they're unconstitutional

Shawn M. Griffiths
Shawn M. Griffiths

I am sure Hawaii Democrats filing this lawsuit still want the state to use public funds for the primaries. I would say the right not to declare a party -- even if you tend to affiliate with one party over another -- is not only about privacy, but is also a First Amendment issue right. Not many people think about the fact that the right of speech and expression is also the right not to say or express something.