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Posted at 10:11 PM ET, 09/26/2010

D.C. discriminates against unaffiliated voters

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Emily Parker Hammill
Washington

The Sept. 18 editorial “Disenfranchised” pointed out the unfairness of allowing same-day registration but not allowing independents to join a party and vote at the polls.

This disparity may also be unconstitutional. Voting, freedom of association and equal protection of the laws are fundamental rights under the Constitution. The government must have a legitimate basis if it is to infringe on these rights.

The rules regarding unaffiliated voters have been justified on the grounds of preventing raids on parties as well as ensuring party loyalty. However, the notion of party-raiding is not seriously an issue in the District, where the Democratic primary in essence serves as the general election. Moreover, the new election law allows party-raiding by unregistered voters.

Finally, allowing new registrants to become party members on the day of the primary indicates that adherence to a party is not necessary for voting in its primary. The District’s discrimination between unregistered voters and registered, unaffiliated voters makes so little sense that it may well violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | September 26, 2010; 10:11 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., D.C. politics  
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