Shnelvar: 1142 May Violate Court Rulings
by Ralph Shnelvar
[Ralph Shnelvar presented the following comments to a Colorado legislative committee February 6, 2003 concerning bill 1142, which pertains to minor parties.]
Let me begin by saying that I am not a lawyer, constitutional or otherwise.
Yet I believe that my comments about the legality of interference by the legislature in the affairs of political parties will be of interest to this committee.
In 2002, I ran for governor of the state of Colorado on the Libertarian Party ticket.
Before being nominated by my Party, I discovered - much to my chagrin - that a strict reading of C.R.S. 1-4-1304 would prohibit me from running. In brief, this law demands that anyone running for office be a member of the political party nominating him or her for a year.
I contacted the Secretary of State's office and, much to my delight, found out that the Secretary would permit my name to be on the ballot. Basically, the Secretary of State found that C.R.S. 1-4-1304 is in violation of at least one U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Tashjian vs.Republican Party of Connecticut. Tashjian is the ruling that the Secretary of State's office relied on in 1999 to give candidates from the Colorado Reform Party a position on the 2000 ballot.
I did more research on this subject because I needed to convince my own Party that nominating me would not place the Party in the embarrassing position of having to nominate someone else should I be disqualified.
Tashjian was a 1986 ruling. In 2000 in CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY ET AL. v. JONES the U.S. Supreme Court said:
"The First Amendment protects the freedom to join together to further common political beliefs, ...which presupposes the freedom to identify those who constitute the association, and to limit the association to those people, ... In no area is the political association's right to exclude more important than in its candidate-selection process. That process often determines the party's positions on significant public policy issues, and it is the nominee who is the party' s ambassador charged with winning the general electorate over to its views. The First Amendment reserves a special place, and accords a special protection, for that process, ... because the moment of choosing the party's nominee is the crucial juncture at which the appeal to common principles may be translated into concerted action, ..."
The Supreme Court continues. "Unsurprisingly, our cases vigorously affirm the special place the First Amendment reserves for, and the special protection it accords, the process by which a political party 'select[s] a standard bearer who best represents the party's ideologies and preferences.'"
Member of this committee, I hope that my one-minute review of the U.S. Supreme Court's special fondness and protection of a political party's First Amendment right of free association will give you food for thought about regulating the internal affairs of any political party.
Any attempt to do so may result in appeals to the federal courts for redress. This, in turn, will place our State's Attorney General's office in the expensive and untenable position of defending the indefensible.
I ask this committee to act in the best interests on the citizens of our state by not passing out of this committee legislation which, it is clear to me, is in violation of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.