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ROCKEFELLER v. POWERS

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


December 13, 1995

LARRY ROCKEFELLER; HOLACE MORANCI; NEIL MORANCI; DONNA MORANCI; MARY PARRISH; LUGENIA GORDON; HELEN DALLEY; BETSY WEBSTER; BETSY M. BLATTMACHR; NANCY BURNER and CORNELIUS P. DUGAN, Plaintiffs, against WILLIAM POWERS, Chairman, New York Republican State Committee; NEW YORK REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE; NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS; OWEN T. SMITH, CAROL BERMAN, EVELYN J. AQUILA, and HELENA MOSES DONOHUE, Commissioners, New York State Board of Elections; NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ELECTIONS; DOUGLAS KELLNER, VINCENT CUTTITA, PAUL MEJIAS, VINCENT J. VELELLA, WEYMAN A. CAREY, RONALD J. D'ANGELO, SEYMOUR SHELDON, KATHLEEN WAGNER, GERTRUDE STROHM and FERDINAND MARCHI, Commissioners, New York City Board of Elections; ERIE COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS; ROGER BLACKWELL and RALPH MOHR, Commissioners, Erie County Board of Elections; NASSAU COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS; STEPHEN SABBETH, Commissioner, Nassau County Board of Elections; SUFFOLK COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS; GERALD EDELSTEIN and GERALD BERGER, Commissioners, Suffolk County Board of Elections; MONROE COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS; M. BETSEY RELIN and RONALD J. STARKWEATHER, Commissioners, Monroe County Board of Elections; NATIONAL REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE, Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: KORMAN

MEMORANDUM

 Korman, J.

 The purpose of this memorandum is to set out in somewhat more detail the reasons I stated on the record on November 27, 1995, for granting a preliminary injunction in this civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Plaintiffs are registered Republican voters residing in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 28th, and 29th congressional districts, all of whom intend to vote in the Republican Primary on March 7, 1996, at which ninety-three delegates to the Republican National Convention will be selected. Although their complaint has a broader scope, by order to show cause plaintiffs sought injunctive relief with respect to the "petitioning phase" of the Republican presidential primary in New York. The process involves the circulation of petitions containing the names of delegates committed to a particular presidential candidate whose name appears on the petition and on the ballot. Plaintiffs contend that the process mandated by New York law and Republican Party rules violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

 The general framework for the New York Republican primary was decided on at the 1992 National Convention. At that time, the Convention determined that for the 1996 Convention the delegates would be allocated nationwide as follows: three delegates per congressional district, six additional delegates per state, and some number of "bonus" delegates for each state based on the state's success in supporting and/or electing Republicans.

 On August 8, 1995, the Governor of New York signed into law a statute providing two alternative means by which a delegate candidate could have his or her name placed on the primary ballot. See 1995 N.Y. Laws Ch. 586. Under one alternative, delegates are required to obtain signatures from 5% or 1250 of the enrolled party members in their districts, whichever is less. See id. Ch. 586(2). Under the other alternative, the requirements are substantially less burdensome: 0.5% or 1000, whichever is less. See id. Ch. 586(3). While the legislation offers each political party the option of which alternative to choose, it has been the practice in recent presidential election years for the Legislature to pass an authorizing statute that merely codifies each party's preferred method of organizing its primary. What appear to be the options from which the parties may choose are in fact the choices they have already made. The option requiring 0.5% or 1000 is the one requested by the Democratic Party and the option requiring 5% or 1250 is the one requested by the Republican Party. On October 31, 1995, the last day on which to exercise its option, the Republican State Committee formally notified the New York Board of Elections that it had chosen the alternative that would impose the 5% or 1250 requirements on candidates for delegate. Because of the uneven distribution of Republicans in New York State, the 5% or 1250 requirement imposes very different burdens on different districts. Of the State's thirty-one congressional districts, only six contain fewer than 25,000 Republicans and are therefore forced to comply with the full 5% requirement. The other twenty-five districts receive the benefit of the 1250 cap, which corresponds to a percentage substantially below 5%. Indeed, the uncontested data submitted by plaintiffs reveal that in twenty of the thirty-one districts, the operative percentage is 1.54% or less and in sixteen it is 1.41% or less. In eight districts it is less than 1% and in the district with the most Republicans it is 0.79%. The following chart shows the number of enrolled Republicans in each congressional district ("CD") and the percentage actually required. The asterisks indicate districts that are too small to benefit at all from the 1250 cap. CD #/Republicans #/Signatures % 3 158,097 1250 .79 22 153,824 1250 .81 27 148,319 1250 .84 4 148,013 1250 .84 23 143,555 1250 .87 31 137,952 1250 .91 24 136,788 1250 .91 1 129,111 1250 .97 25 124,260 1250 1.01 26 116,360 1250 1.07 19 114,008 1250 1.10 29 113,561 1250 1.10 28 112,797 1250 1.11 2 112,442 1250 1.11 20 102,232 1250 1.22 13 88,350 1250 1.41 21 86,470 1250 1.45 5 85,213 1250 1.47 18 85,062 1250 1.47 30 80,970 1250 1.54 14 52,555 1250 2.38 9 52,511 1250 2.38 7 46,303 1250 2.70 8 33,247 1250 3.76 6 26,457 1250 4.72 17 23,090 1155 5.00* 12 20,215 1011 5.00* 10 17,114 856 5.00* 15 15,561 778 5.00* 16 14,852 743 5.00* 11 11,814 591 5.00*

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