The South Carolina Republican Party has joined the Greenville County Republican Party to file a suit in U.S. District Court in Greenville, seeking to overturn laws that prevent political parties in this state from holding primaries in which only people registered for that party can vote.
The suit filed last week had no effect on the June 8, 2010, Primary Elections, as it seeks only to change the way future primaries are conducted.
Currently, South Carolina law allows any registered voter to vote in any political party’s primaries, which denies political parties their First Amendment right of “free association,” a legal concept meaning individuals right to express themselves and promote common interests as a group.
In addition, the suit maintains that current state law denies political parties the right of equal protection under the law. State law requires that political parties who choose to nominate candidates by convention, rather than by primary, must get ¾ majority to nominate, effectively making the convention process prohibitively difficult. The suit notes that other entities like non- profits and corporations have no such restrictions under state law.
By overturning these unconstitutional state statues, the Republican Party’s goal is to force a change in state law that allows parties to conduct party only primaries in the future, if they choose to.
“We’ve seen Democrats influence Republican primaries for too long,” said Patrick Haddon, chairman of the Greenville County Republican Party. “We think that it’s our right as a party to hold our elections closed to people not registered as Republicans. Whether it’s churches, corporations or non-profits, government doesn’t mandate that people from outside those organizations tell them how to do their business. It should be the same for political parties.”
Four years ago, Democrat crossover voting and large amounts of special interest money defeated conservative Republican incumbents on Greenville County Council and replaced them with individuals not previously affiliated with the Republican Party. One candidate elected with the help of crossover Democrats was convicted of a crime and is currently serving a sentence in a federal penitentiary. “The Executive Committee of the SC GOP made registration by party one of its top three legislative priorities for the year, and I am very proud to be joining Patrick and the Greenville GOP to push this suit forward,” said Karen Floyd, Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. “Republican primaries ought to be decided by Republicans, period. We believe this suit will be decided in our favor, and our hope is that it will force recognition of our right to make sure our primaries are not decided by outside influences seeking to exploit the system.”
The Executive Committee voted to have the Brown and Harms law firms to move forward with the lawsuit.