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Resurrecting the White Primary

51 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2004  

Ellen D. Katz

University of Michigan Law School


This Article argues that the right to vote encompasses the right to participate in a competitive electoral process. It offers a revisionist reading of the White Primary Cases as recognizing this core principle and explains how recent case law sacrifices it by disregarding the importance of electoral competition to participation in a party primary. The Article also explores how current doctrine cedes to political parties, and to the Democratic Party in particular, the power to manipulate the racial composition of the primary electorate. Taken together, these developments create a legal structure resembling the one that supported the exclusion of African-American voters from determinative primary elections in the Jim Crow South. The Article concludes by exploring the ramifications of this parallel in light of the Court's decision last term in Vieth v. Jubelirer, which refused to impose meaningful curbs on partisan gerrymandering.

Keywords: White primary, open primary, elections

JEL Classification: J70, J71, J78

Suggested Citation

Katz, Ellen D., Resurrecting the White Primary. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 153, December 2004. Available at SSRN:

Ellen Katz (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
LR 960
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734-647-6241 (Phone)

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