Friday, January 21, 2005

U.S. Supreme Court Debates Oklahoma Law

Several Oklahoma registered voters and the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma are currently involved in a battle with the Oklahoma State Election Board over an Oklahoma statute governing the conduct of primary elections. The plaintiffs are challenging 26 O.S. § 1-104(A) and § 1-104(B)(4), claiming they impermissibly prevent a recognized political party in Oklahoma from opening up its primary and run-off elections to all Oklahoma registered voters regardless of those voters' political party affiliation. The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma held that the law was constitutional. Beaver v. Clingman, 2003 WL 74562 (W.D. Okla. 2003). However, on appeal the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the law was an unconstitutional violation of the free association guarantees of the First Amendment. Beaver v. Clingman, 363 F.3d 1048 (10th Cir. 2004). Late last year the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari review of the 10th Circuit’s decision. Clingman v. Beaver, 125 S.Ct. 27, 159 L.Ed.2d 857, 73 USLW 3075, 73 USLW 3178, 73 USLW 3204 (2004)The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument this past Tuesday. In reviewing the ruling of the 10th Circuit, the Supreme Court will decide whether the holding of California Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U.S. 567, 578, 120 S.Ct. 2402, 147 L.Ed.2d 502 (2000) requires a state to allow a political party to open up its primary election to any registered voter, regardless of affiliation.

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