Judge Tymkovich, in Concurrence to Denial of En Banc Rehearing in Utah Political Party Case, Calls on SCOTUS to Revisit Political Party Regulation

Tenth Circuit Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich, who regularly teaches election law (and has used our casebook), wrote this interesting statement today concurring in the denial of rehearing en banc in the Utah Republican Party case:

I concur in the court’s denial of rehearing en banc. The majority and dissent clearly laid out the dueling arguments. I write separately to note the issues raised here deserve the Supreme Court’s attention. The panel majority pledges continued faith in an oft-repeated strand of Supreme Court dicta which, as my dissent argues, has outlived its reliability. At this point, the Supreme Court’s homage to State regulation of the primary election process is little more than a nod to received wisdom. Cal. Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U.S. 567, 572 (2000); see, e.g., American Party of Tex. v. White, 415 U.S. 767, 781 (1974).

Yet circumstances are much changed. Recent Supreme Court cases like California Democratic Party v. Jones suggest this dicta does not provide the whole truth. So too, do facts on the ground. The behemoth, corrupt party machines we imagine to have caused the progressive era’s turn to primaries are now, in many respects, out of commission. In important ways, the party system is the weakest it has ever been—a sobering reality given parties’ importance to our republic’s stability. And given new evidence of the substantial associational burdens, even distortions, caused by forcibly expanding a party’s nomination process, a closer look seems in order. The time appears ripe for the Court to reconsider (or rather, as I see it, consider for the first time) the scope of government regulation of political party primaries and the attendant harms to associational rights and substantive ends.

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