Political parties have unique associational rights. In party primaries, party members associate to further their common political beliefs, and more importantly, to nominate candidates. These candidate are the “standard bearer[s]” for the political party—the people who “best represent[ ] the party’s ideologies and preferences.” The primary represents a “crucial juncture at which the appeal to common principles may be translated into concerted action, and hence to political power in the community.” Because the primary is such a critical moment for the political party, the party’s associational rights are most important at this time.
In 2004, the Green Party of Alaska and the Republican Moderate Party of Alaska filed suit in Alaska state court, arguing that a primary statute that banned parties from joining together to voluntarily issue a single blanket primary ballot violated their associational rights. In State v. Green Party of Alaska, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed, holding that the Alaska Constitution protected the right of political parties to participate in voluntary blanket primaries and that the statute impermissibly burdened the parties’ associational rights. The court’s analysis drew substantially from federal constitutional precedent, and in particular, the Supreme Court’s decision in California Democratic Party v. Jones, which recognized broad associational rights for political parties. Only a few months prior to the Alaska court’s decision, however, the U.S. Supreme Court had decided Clingman v. Beaver, which had interpreted political parties’ associational rights more narrowly than had California Democratic Party. Because Clingman stood in tension with California Democratic Party, the Alaska court chose to leave open the issue of whether a prohibition on a voluntary blanket primary ballot would violate the federal constitution. This Note addresses that question.