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Miller v. Cunningham
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
512 F.3d 98 (2007)
Virginia typically allowed party organizations to choose nominating procedures in primary elections. However, if an incumbent state legislator sought reelection, state law allowed the incumbent to choose the nominating procedure, including a primary, even if it was not the procedure the party organization selected. Virginia law also required primaries be open to all qualified voters, so long as a voter did not vote for the candidates of more than one party. Stephen Martin, an incumbent Republican legislator seeking reelection, choose to have a primary. The 11th District Committee (the Committee) (plaintiff), the local outpost of the Republican Party, wanted to have a semiclosed primary, excluding voters who had voted in a Democratic Party primary in the last five years, despite Virginia law not recognizing semiclosed primaries. The Virginia State Board of Elections (the Board) (defendant) denied the Committee’s request to hold a semiclosed primary, citing the open-primary law. The Committee sued, arguing that the open-primary law violated the Committee’s First and Fourteenth Amendment right of free association. The district court held that the state law requiring open primaries was not facially unconstitutional but was unconstitutional as applied when an incumbent having the power to choose the nominating process decided to hold a primary. In such a case, the law violated the Committee’s right of association by preventing the Committee from excluding unwanted voters. A panel of the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s holding, and the Board appealed, requesting that the case be reheard en banc.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning
Dissent (Wilkinson, J.)
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