Can the government require major political parties to have elected leadership or does such a regulatory scheme violate the First Amendment? Can they impose the option to elect leadership in exchange for higher contribution limits? These questions are among the issues I will be arguing before the Washington State Supreme Court later this month.
We have a somewhat unique system in Washington where the state holds elections for the grassroots leadership of our major political parties. This office is called Precinct Committee Officer and (when contested) appears on the ballot every 2 years. A few years back I was working to recruit people into that office to help reform some perceived corruption in our local parties. As it turned out, party corruption was one of the major scandals in the 2016 election.
As you may be aware, I strongly believe that there is an illusion of choice and that the system is rigged towards the major two parties. In Washington, our major parties must organize around the Precinct Committee Officer if they want the special campaign finance exemptions that come with the major party status. For example, select committees of major party could contribute around $50,000 to a candidate where a minor party, PAC or individual could only contribute $1,000 to the same candidate.
Unfortunately the requirement for election of local leadership has come under challenge. The King County Republican Party argues that the requirement is unconstitutional and has adopted bylaws barring it’s chair from holding elections mandated by law. Early in 2015 I filed a petition in King County Superior Court to ascertain the constitutionality of that statute. It is now before the Washington State Supreme Court. I will be making oral arguments before the court on September 14, 2017.