Appeal from a judgment entered in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New Youk (Jack B. Weinstein, J .) dismissing a complaint which had been brought to determine if the procedure used by the Suffolk County Conservative Party to nominate non-party members as candidates for state political office offended the one-person, one-vote principle. Affirmed.
Before Lumbard, Moore and Meskill, Circuit Judges.
Appellants herein seek favorable resolution of an issue left undecided in Montano v. Lefkowitz, 575 F.2d 378 (2d Cir. 1978), and determined adversely to them by the court below: that is, whether the "one-person, one-vote" principle is violated when members of a political party residing outside a particular political district are permitted under state law and party charter to participate in the nomination of non-party candidates seeking to represent that district in the state legislature. Such participation, in appellants' view, violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution in that it dilutes the autonomy and voting power of party members domiciled within the district whose representation in the state legislature may be affected by this nominating procedure. Following submission of the case upon the pleadings and stipulated facts, the district court confronted this issue on a broad constitutional plane, and in a thoughtful and potentially far-reaching opinion, dismissed the complaint. Mrazek v. Suffolk County Board of Elections, 471 F. Supp. 412 (E.D.N.Y.1979). We take a more modest view of the controversy presented by the facts of this case. Although our route is therefore less exhilarating than that of the court below, we arrive at the same destination and accordingly affirm its judgment.
Appellees James J. Lack and Robert C. Wertz are members of the Republican Party who in 1978 ran successfully for the offices of State Senator for the Second Senatorial District and Assemblyman for the Fourth Assembly District, respectively.*fn1 In addition to carrying the banner of their own party, Lack and Wertz had also been nominated as the candidates of the Conservative Party in accordance with state law and party charter. Appellants Robert Mrazek and Rudolph F. X. Migliore are registered members of the Democratic Party who opposed Lack and Wertz in the 1978 general election, and appellants Leslie Fitzpatrick and Grace Holzmacher are enrolled members of the Conservative Party who, at the relevant time, resided within the Second Senatorial and Fourth Assembly Districts. No claim is made that Mrazek or Migliore sought the endorsement of the Conservative Party, or that Fitzpatrick or Holzmacher endeavored to obtain the nominations for themselves, for other party members or for persons unaffiliated with the Conservative Party.
Although the election is long since over and the matter plainly moot as to Lack and Wertz, Clark v. Rose, 531 F.2d 56, 57 (2d Cir. 1976), appellants seek prospective relief in the nature of a declaration of the invalidity of the manner in which Conservative Party endorsements for intra-county state political offices are conferred upon persons not formally affiliated with the party. New York's "Wilson-Pakula" law, now codified as New York Election Law § 6-120(3) (McKinney 1978),*fn2 requires that a candidate soliciting the endorsement of a political party with which he is not affiliated obtain the approval of the appropriate party committee before filing a petition with the county board of elections designating him as that party organization's endorsed candidate. Article IX, Section 6(a) of the Rules and Regulations of the Conservative Party of New York State (1974) permits endorsements of non-party candidacies for intra-county political offices to be made in conformity with procedures set forth by the party's appropriate county committee. See Restivo v. Conservative Party of the State of New York, 391 F. Supp. 813, 816 n.2 (S.D.N.Y.1975). Under Article V, Section 2(a) of the Rules and Regulations of the Suffolk County Committee of the Conservative Party of New York State (1976), the power to authorize non-party candidacies is effectively delegated to an Executive Committee, which unlike its parent body, meets with some regularity.
The Executive Committee is composed of thirteen members. Four are the officers of the County Committee, elected to those positions by the members of that body, who in turn are elected by party members in each of the election districts in the county.*fn3 These four may thus be said to represent a county-wide constituency. Each of the remaining nine members of the Executive Committee represents one of the ten towns into which Suffolk County is subdivided.*fn4 Town representatives to the Executive Committee are selected by the county committeepersons who have been elected in the various election districts encompassed by the township.
There are four senatorial and ten assembly districts within Suffolk County. The Second Senatorial District embraces some or all of two towns, Smithtown and Huntington, and the Fourth Assembly District lies within Smithtown. Both political units are situated in the western urban portion of the county. From the record before this Court it appears that the five western towns contain significantly greater numbers of Conservative Party members than the five towns located in the eastern, rural reaches of the county.*fn5 Notwithstanding this potential malapportionment of representation on the Executive Committee, an issue which is not raised by appellants, the votes of all members of the Executive Committee are counted equally for purposes of making non-party endorsements.
In order for an unaffiliated individual to obtain authorization for a Conservative Party candidacy for office within Suffolk County, that person must procure the backing of the majority of Executive Committee members present and eligible to vote at the meeting called to consider such matters. This accomplished, the candidate receives a certificate of authorization to file a petition with the County Board of Elections designating him as the party's endorsed nominee. As set forth under New York Election Law §§ 6-136(2)(h) and (i) (McKinney 1978), the petition must contain the requisite number of signatures of party members registered to vote within the district where the unaffiliated candidate will seek office: for State Senate, the number is the lesser of one thousand signatures or five percent of the party's local enrollment, and for State Assembly, the lesser of five hundred or five percent of the Conservatives registered to vote in the district.*fn6
No procedure appears to exist whereby a disappointed non-party candidate for the Conservative endorsement can either dispute or appeal from an Executive Committee decision awarding the party's support to a rival or compel the party to withhold any endorsement. Neither is there a mechanism whereby an unaffiliated individual may compel a primary between himself and a candidate duly endorsed by the Conservative Party organization. In sum and substance, no non-party member may secure the Conservative Party endorsement except through the Executive Committee.*fn7 An enrolled party member, however, may contest the Executive Committee's non-party endorsement by filing a designating petition containing the same minimum number of signatures applicable to the non-member, thereby forcing a primary. It might further be noted that in the event a primary is compelled, an unaffiliated candidate may, under certain conditions, secure the opportunity for party members to write in his name and may, of course, run as an independent in the general election. See Clark v. Rose, 379 F. Supp. 73, 78 (S.D.N.Y.1974) (three judge court). As indicated above, Lack and Wertz were unopposed for the Conservative Party nominations.
In July, 1978, after Lack and Wertz had obtained the authorization of the Executive Committee and had duly filed their designating petitions with the County Board of Elections, Mrazek and Migliore instituted an action in State Supreme Court pursuant to New York Election Law § 16-102, seeking to block their nominations. From the record before us the precise basis for the state court suit is unclear, but it appears that without reaching the merits of the complaint the court dismissed the action on the ground that neither Mrazek nor Migliore possessed standing to vindicate rights belonging to ...