Maui Election

Ninth Circuit Upholds Hawaiʻi’s Open Primary Elections

August 15, 2016, 12:47 PM HST
* Updated August 15, 12:51 PM
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In a published opinion issued today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hawaiʻi’s practice of holding open primary elections. The Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi had sued the state office of elections in 2013 and sought to limit participation in the Democratic primary election to registered Democrats only.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Democratic Party did not show that the open primary system burdens its rights. The State Attorney General said the Party offered no evidence that the open primary impacted its candidates or messages. The Ninth Circuit noted that Hawaiʻi’s voters may vote in only one party’s primary election.

The case, Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi v. Nago, was originally filed in the federal district court of Hawaiʻi. In November 2013, Judge J. Michael Seabright ruled in the State’s favor, upholding the open primary. The Democratic Party appealed. The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in May 2016.

“The open primary is part of Hawaiʻi’s commitment to make voting easier and to include more persons in the democratic process,” said Attorney General Doug Chin. “This ruling keeps Hawaiʻi’s primary elections open to all registered voters, regardless of their formal party affiliation.”

This ruling has no effect on the 2016 primary or general elections.

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