9th Circuit Court, August 15, 2016
The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Scott Nago, in his official capacity as Chief Election Officer of the State of Hawaii, in an action brought by the Democratic Party of Hawaii challenging Hawaii’s open primary system on the grounds that allowing registered voters to participate in any party’s primary without formally joining or declaring support for that party, severely burdens the Democratic Party’s First Amendment associational rights.
The panel first noted that the extent to which Hawaii’s open primary system burdens the Democratic Party’s associational rights is a factual question on which the Party bore the burden of proof. The panel held that the Party had not developed any evidence to meet this burden. The Party provided no evidence showing a clear and present danger that adherents of opposing parties determine the Democratic Party’s nominees. Nor had the Party shown that Hawaii’s open primary system causes Democratic candidates to moderate their policy stances. The panel concluded that absent evidence that Hawaii’s system affects the Party’s ability to select its nominees, the Party’s facial challenge failed
PDF: Court Ruling
79% YES -- Should voters in Hawaii be able to vote for a party in the primary election without formally joining the party?
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NINTH CIRCUIT UPHOLDS HAWAII’S OPEN PRIMARY ELECTIONS
News Release from Hawaii Attorney General, Aug 15, 2016
HONOLULU – In a published opinion issued today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hawaii’s practice of holding open primary elections. The Democratic Party of Hawaii had sued the state office of elections in 2013 and sought to limit participation in the Democratic primary election to registered Democrats only.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Democratic Party did not show that the open primary system burdens its associational rights. The Party offered no evidence that the open primary impacted its candidates or messages. The Ninth Circuit noted that Hawaii’s voters may vote in only one party’s primary election.
The case, Democratic Party of Hawaii v. Nago, was originally filed in the federal district court of Hawaii. In November 2013, Judge J. Michael Seabright ruled in the State’s favor, upholding the open primary. The Democratic Party appealed. The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in May 2016.
“The open primary is part of Hawaii’s commitment to make voting easier and to include more persons in the democratic process,” said Attorney General Doug Chin. “This ruling keeps Hawaii’s primary elections open to all registered voters, regardless of their formal party affiliation.”
This ruling has no effect on the 2016 primary or general elections. A copy of the court’s opinion is attached.