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MAXEY v. WASHINGTON STATE DEMOCRATIC COMM.

October 26, 1970

Carl MAXEY, Paul Pedersen, Michael Saslow, Fred T. Haley, James Michael Ryherd, Thomas McCarthy, Lawrence Wilets, Plaintiffs,
v.
WASHINGTON STATE DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE and Dwight Spracher, Chairman, Defendants


Alfred T. Goodwin, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOODWIN

This is an action by a group of registered voters who seek redress under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, of an alleged deprivation of their right to vote. The case is before the court on joint motions for summary judgment.

 Several of the plaintiffs were delegates from the state of Washington to the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Others were not selected as delegates, but all hold the position of Democratic precinct committeeman. The nominal defendants include the Washington State Democratic Committee, which is created by state law to represent the Democratic voters of the state. (A related case decided today, Dahl v. Republican State Committee, 319 F. Supp. 682 (W.D. Wash. 1970), deals with the constitutionality of the statute creating the state committee.)

 Jurisdiction is vested in this court by virtue of 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3) and (4). The complaint alleges that certain practices of the state committee result in unconstitutional dilution and infringement of voting rights. The plaintiffs allege that the state committee, under authority delegated by statute, has denied the plaintiffs in the more populous areas of the state equal participation in the presidential-nomination processes. Declaratory and injunctive relief is also sought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202.

 Plaintiffs' basic contention is that the one-man-one-vote principle enunciated by the Supreme Court in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 82 S. Ct. 691, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663 (1962), and Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S. Ct. 1362, 12 L. Ed. 2d 506 (1964), applies to a state political-party-convention system the same as it applies to a party primary.

 
" Authority -- Generally. Each political party shall have the power to:
 
(1) Make its own rules and regulations;
 
(2) Call conventions;
 
(3) Elect delegates to conventions, state and national;
 
(4) Fill vacancies on the ticket;
 
(5) Provide for the nomination of presidential electors; and
 
(6) Perform all functions inherent in such an organization:
 
Provided, That in no instance shall any convention have the power to nominate any candidate to be voted for at any primary election." RCW 29.42.010.

 The state committee of each major political party consists of one committeeman and one committeewoman from each county, elected by the county committee. The county committees consist of the precinct committeemen for each party from the several voting precincts of each county. A precinct committeeman or committeewoman is elected every two years or appointed by the county chairman as provided for in RCW 29.42.050.

 Pursuant to the general grant of authority in RCW 29.42.010, the Democratic State Committee has, for the past fifty years, provided for the election of delegates to the state and national conventions through a statewide convention system.

 The state committee describes the convention system as follows:

 
"Delegates to the national convention are elected through a series of meetings. Democrats attending caucuses in precincts elect delegates to the county conventions, who in turn elect delegates to the state convention. These delegates then meet in congressional district caucuses before the state convention to elect delegates from among their number to the national convention. These are then approved at the state convention where other delegates are elected at large.
 
"Each county central committee organizes its own county convention, and the state committee organizes the state convention * * *." Washington State Democratic Committee circular, "The Convention Process," January 18, 1968.

 State conventions are held every two years. In preparation for the presidential election, the state committee promulgates rules for convening and conducting the quadrennial convention and the election of state delegates to the national convention.

 The state committee apportions the number of state-convention delegates among the county party organizations. The formula for making such an apportionment begins with a total number of delegates to the state convention (1,398 in 1968). Each county is customarily allotted a certain number of basic delegate votes (five in 1968). Each county is also allowed five votes for each state senatorial district within its boundary and one for each twenty per cent of the county's population encompassed by a district covering more than one county. Each county receives one additional delegate vote for each 1,000 votes or major fraction thereof cast for the party's presidential nominee at the last presidential election, and one delegate vote for each 2,000 vote plurality the party's presidential nominee achieved over his opponent in that county. Finally, a number of ex-officio delegates (usually state and national elective officials who have, of course, been elected on a oneman-one-vote basis) are designated and appointed by the state committee.

 At the county level, the county central committee operates as the functional equivalent of the state committee in calling and organizing the county convention and ...


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