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Democrats say primary law is unconstitutional

June 19, 2013
The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - In a federal lawsuit, the Democratic Party of Hawaii claims the state's primary election law is unconstitutional.

Hawaii's primary system that allows every registered voter to participate in the party's nomination process is tantamount to forced political association, in violation of the First Amendment, according to the lawsuit filed Monday.

The party prefers a primary that allows distinguishing voters by political orientation. The law prevents the party "from exerting any control over who may participate in the nomination of its candidates," the lawsuit states, resulting in the "active, earnest and faithful" party members being "substantially outnumbered in their own nomination process, by persons unknown to (the party)."

The lawsuit would help ensure that Democrats are elected at the primary stage by fellow Democrats, said Dante Carpenter, party chairman.

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

A scheduling conference on the lawsuit is set for Sept. 16.

Chief Election Officer Scott Nago is named as the defendant. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Hawaii had a closed system between 1968 and 1978. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Hawaii is one of 11 states with open systems.

Some in the party are concerned that the nominating process has become diluted, while many elected Democrats fear that voters won't participate if they have to become party members or publicly declare party affiliation, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.



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