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Independent voters group challeges Democrats' closed primary suit

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Associated Press

POSTED:



A national organization representing independent voters is calling for the Democratic Party of Hawaii to withdraw its federal lawsuit that seeks a closed primary election system.

The lawsuit filed in federal court last month claims Hawaii’s primary system that allows every registered voter to participate in the party’s nomination process is tantamount to forced political association and is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit caught the attention of New York-based IndependentVoting.org, prompting the group to take out an ad that will be running in Sunday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The ad says requiring party registration would end political privacy.

“So many Americans are concerned and upset about the issue of partisanship,” Jacqueline Salit, the group’s president, said today. “It’s becoming a hot-button issue around the country.”

The lawsuit would narrow the democratic process and goes against Hawaii’s spirit of openness and inclusiveness, Salit said. While there have been similar attempts by Republicans, “this is the first time in recent history that a state Democratic party has taken this action,” she said of going to court to change the primary system.

The half-page ad was paid for by donors in Hawaii, she said. The ad says the lawsuit highlights a divided party, noting that Gov. Neil Abercrombie and other Democratic elected officials said they support open primaries.

The lawsuit isn’t about excluding voters but ensuring Democrats are selected at the primary stage by those willing to identify as Democrats, party Chairman Dante Carpenter said. “The primary is literally about selecting the candidate for the party,” he said.

“We know that most people don’t want to belong to a political party and that’s OK, we respect that,” he said. “But we do respect someone who is willing to openly make a selection and not be afraid to tell the world about it.”

Carpenter said that helps eliminate the trickery that goes on, when someone votes for a less desirable candidate to improve the chances of a candidate in another party. “So that when the candidates vie against each other in the general election, they’re the best possible candidates.” 






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Skyler wrote:
Good for them - better for Hawaii.
on July 10,2013 | 06:13PM
false wrote:
"Good for them"? Who are "them"? The newspaper hasn't bothered to give us background on this "Independent Voters" group, but a quick Google search of Jackie Shalit suggests her organization is probably a hollow entity, controlled by groups with a secret agenda. Jackie Shalit was a strategist an spokesman for the New York Independence Party. The Independence Party arose with Ross Perot's campaign for president. After Perot stopped running for office, the remnants of his organization was up for grabs. In New York, the "Independence Party" was taken over by the New Alliance Party, headed by a cult-like leader, Fred Newman, with perpetual third party candidate Lenora Fulani serving as the public head. It was at this point that Shalit emerged as their chief strategist.

Mayor Bloomberg left the Republican Party, wanting to run for Mayor as an "Independent." So he opened negotiations with the New Alliance group to run on their ballot line. Fulani agreed to step aside as mayoral candidate in favor of Bloomberg. Bloomberg, an extremely wealthy man, is able to convince people to go along with him.

Now that Bloomberg is looking at expanding his national influence, perhaps even toying with the idea of a run for president, we have this new letterhead organization emerge. Is it funded by Bloomberg? Are the New Alliance Party activists around Fulani still involved? None of this background suggest Jackie Shalit is an advocate for truly "independent voters" rather than behind the scenes figures. People interested in becoming active in the Hawaii Democratic Party can do so rather easily. How does one get involved in the New York Independent Party/New Alliance Party?

But, hey, if a bogus group with shadowy connections to a radical cult and an ambitious billionaire can be used by the Star-Advertiser to attack the local Democrats, why bother digging deeper into the story? Just use it!


on July 11,2013 | 11:03AM
AndrewWalden wrote:
"First time in recent history that a state Democratic party has taken this action?" Nonsense. The Hawaii Dems case is based in large part on the 2000 case "California Democratic Party v. Jones" in which Ca Dems sued to block an open blanket primary. This national group apparently doesn't know the first thing about case law on freedom of association issues. The clearly didn't bother to read the court filings in which Jones is mentioned again and again.
on July 10,2013 | 06:27PM
false wrote:
Andrew Walden gets my vote.
on July 10,2013 | 07:03PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
It's an attempt at a power grab. California is controlled by democrats and has an open voting policy.
on July 10,2013 | 09:36PM
bender wrote:
The Hawaii case differs from the California case. Quit trying to compare apples to oranges.
on July 11,2013 | 04:58AM
Kuniarr wrote:
In a Democracy, the end does not in any manner justify the means. The real purpose of a closed primary is to "eliminate the trickery that goes on, when someone votes for a less desirable candidate to improve the chances of a candidate in another party. “So that when the candidates vie against each other in the general election, they’re the best possible candidates.”

But to accomplish this purpose, voters will have to be identified as Democrat which is a violation of a person's privacy, of a person's anonymity in the election process.
on July 10,2013 | 08:03PM
bender wrote:
I don't think Danta Carpenter can cite one case wherein GOP voters pulled Democrat ballots in a primary that resulted in a weaker candidate being nominated. There simply aren't enough GOP voters to pull off such a feat and even fewer of them that are interested pulling a Democrat ballot and therefore not being able to participate in their own party's primary. This idea has somehow taken hold and has become an urban legend in some parts of society, such as the Democratic Party of Hawaii.
on July 11,2013 | 05:06AM
false wrote:
I don't think Dante has made that claim. The argument is that the primary is the means by which the political parties nominate THEIR candidates, offering them up for consideration by voters in general in the ,well, in the GENERAL election.

The reality is, many voters who intend to vote for the Republican candidate in the General, vote in the Democratic primary first, because that is where all the action is. And because it is likely that whoever wins the Democratic nomination will probably win the General Election as well. Some blowhards talk publicly about planning to vote for the "weaker" Democrat in the primary, but most Republican voters sincerely vote for the Dem they consider the "lesser evil." And THEN vote for the Republican candidate in the General. We can see in the major races how this causes some Democratic candidates to make special appeals to GOP crossover voters. The Ed Case and Mufi Hanneman campaigns were open about this. It worked for Mufi in his first congressional run. It almost worked for Ed when he ran for Guv against Mazie Hirono.

Some voters may WISH the primary was not a NOMINATING process, may WISH the primary were simply a non-partisan elimination round. And many voters have come to see it that way. So I guess this general confusion is understandable. But the court has made it clear that the nominating function is at the core of the PARTISAN primary and the political parties have a fundamental right to say WHO can participate in THEIR nominating process. Most states use a form of closed primary, so this argument from the Hawaii Dems, rather than being farfetched, as this group is implying, is fully within the mainstream understanding of both political parties in most states.


on July 11,2013 | 08:43AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
This lawsuit is about the Hawaii democratic party trying to completely control this state and consolidate their hold on power. They've been in power for so long they're beginning to think they can do anything ... like exclude voters who don't identify themselves as democratic party members. Dante Carpenter should be ashamed of himself, the democratic party has been corrupted and now serves only special interest groups like Unions and big monopoly businesses in Hawaii.
on July 10,2013 | 09:31PM
false wrote:
I am sure what you just wrote makes you feel good. But it is hogwash. This lawsuit is coming from the PARTY activists, not from the elected officials and certainly not from the "Unions and big monopoly businesses," most of whom strongly oppose the lawsuit. And many of the lawsuit advocates fully expect the lawsuit, if successful, may result in the election of MORE Republicans, not fewer. The current political monopoly by politicians who are nominally Democrats is partly the result of the Open Primary system. Because political philosophy is irrelevant under the "Big Tent" approach to party membership, almost any ambitious politician opts to run as a Democrat, even when their views might align more closely with moderate Republicans. The lawsuit backers are HOPING such aspiring politicians jump ship and run as Republicans. "Better Fewer but Better" Democrats.

That perspective is not shared by either the corporate interests who often give money to "pragmatic" Democratic candidates, nor by the union leaders, who are willing to cross party lines to support a reasonable Republican IF they are willing to recognize certain union interests. You might disagree with the value of having both (and the minor) parties becoming more concerned with political philosophy. Certainly the Republicans are suffering because of the strength of the hardline rightwing tendency among their activists. But your notion this is a powergrab by the unions and behind the scene Democratic powerbrokers is 180 degrees off.

But don't let an absence of facts get in the way of your prejudices. "Say what you think," but you MAY want to Think Before You Say.


on July 11,2013 | 08:57AM
Ken_Conklin wrote:
I'm going to address two issues: (a) whether the government has the legal right to force a political party to allow people to vote in its primary election even when the party hates their guts; (b) whether the Constitutional right to freedom of association can be used by a political party to keep people it doesn't like from voting in its primary election.

(a) The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Smith v. Allwright that a political party (the Democrats in Texas) cannot exclude a racial group (blacks) from voting in the party’s primary elections. Thus we see that the government has the right to force political parties to allow people to vote in their primaries even when the parties themselves would prefer to exclude them. That case was decided back in the days when racial segregation was normal in Texas. But aside from racial discrimination, that case proves that the government does have the right to force a political party to let people vote in its primary election even when the party would like to keep them out (whether or not race is the issue).

I might add that one of the reasons the Court ruled that way in the Texas decades ago was because the Democrat Party was overwhelmingly powerful, so that the Democrat nomination for a statewide office was pretty much a guarantee of getting elected — just like Hawaii! The Democrat Party is so powerful today in Hawaii that even some politicians elected to office as Republicans feel they must switch to the Democrat Party in order to get anything done in the legislature. It’s very much the way things were in the old South where the Democrats ruled, and the party refused to let black people join the party or vote in the primary elections, until the U.S. Supreme Court forced the party to give up that whites-only rule for primary elections. So long as Hawaii is a one-party State, it’s important for people to be able to vote in the Democrat primary.

(b) I have heard the argument that the Constitution guarantees the right to free association. People should be allowed to choose their friends and to exclude those who disagree with them. Protestants don’t get to nominate the next Catholic Pope. The Israelites didn’t get to participate in deciding that Goliath would be the standard-bearer for the Philistines. That “freedom of association” argument is the one always used by white racists who wanted to keep blacks out of their lunch counters, and by today’s homeowners who advertise an apartment for rent but want to discriminate against particular races, particular religions, or same-gender couples. It was the same argument used right here in Hawaii to prohibit people with no Hawaiian blood from voting for or running to be trustees of the state government agency “Office of Hawaiian Affairs.” I'm not saying that the Dems who want a closed primary are racists like the Dems in Texas decades ago. But I am saying that the "freedom of association" argument is the same one used by the racists back then, and still used today by people who want to discriminate based on race or religion or gender or sexual preference. Federal courts, and courts in Hawaii, have repeatedly ruled that the Constitutional right to freedom of association cannot be used as a way to stop political parties from letting people participate, nor as a way for homeowners or condo associations to keep out whole categories of people on account of religion, gender preference, handicaps, etc.

Democrats and liberals in Hawaii claim to be strongly supportive of openness in government, and non-discrimination in public accommodations. But now we have Democrat liberals nevertheless demanding that the all-powerful Democrat party in our one-party State should be able to keep out voters who haven’t taken a loyalty oath to the Party. What a bunch of hypocrites they are!


on July 11,2013 | 04:40AM
false wrote:
Leave it to a racist like Ken to try to distort the picture by saying this has anything to do with race. Just based on what Ken has posted here, it is clear the Texas case had to do with a civil rights violation: the exclusion of people from participating in a party's nominating process based upon their race. That is a civil rights violation of the constitutional to equal protection. In a conflict between a political party's associational rights and those of people to participate equally without regard to their race, that is not even a close call.

The constitution of the United States recognizes the right to free speech and to "assemble" to seek redress from the government. The right to free speech on political matters is rendered extremely weak if people are not allowed to associate with like-minded people to develop a plan for how they would like to change government policy and then to elect from their members candidates for approval by the voters (or rejection). The US Supreme Court in its Jones ruling was very clear on this. A political party has the right to pick its own candidates. A party cannot be forced by government authorities to include in their nominating process people who "hate their guts." Just as the right to Free Speech and to petition the government for change are Fundamental rights, for a political party, the right to pick its own candidates is an extension of that fundamental right.

Ken's "logic" essentially says, if people are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, then they shouldn't be allowed to discriminate on the basis of political philosophy. A somewhat absurd position when applied to groups organized to advance political interests. But this is not the first time Ken has been confused by his emotions about race and ethnicity.


on July 11,2013 | 09:13AM
Ken_Conklin wrote:
Let me reply to "false" by simply repeating part of what I wrote but which she apparently didn't comprehend.

Federal courts, and courts in Hawaii, have repeatedly ruled that the Constitutional right to freedom of association cannot be used as a way to stop political parties from letting people participate, nor as a way for homeowners or condo associations to keep out whole categories of people on account of religion, gender preference, handicaps, etc.

Democrats and liberals in Hawaii claim to be strongly supportive of openness in government, and non-discrimination in public accommodations. But now we have Democrat liberals nevertheless demanding that the all-powerful Democrat party in our one-party State should be able to keep out voters who haven’t taken a loyalty oath to the Party. What a bunch of hypocrites they are!

Let me also take note of how "false" commits the usual nonsense liberals always do, by making a personal attack rather than arguing the merits of the case. The first words out of the mouth of "false" were "Leave it to a racist like Ken ..." That's a "false" accusation whose only purpose is to shift the argument away from what the Democrats are trying to do and instead make it an argument about Ken Conklin. How about if I now say that "false" is a drug abuser and child molester, and leave it at that.


on July 11,2013 | 12:50PM
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