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Indiana's two-primary rule for partisan affiliation stands as state Supreme Court declines appeal

The exterior of the Indiana Supreme Court chamber. A sign on the wall reads "Supreme Court" with the room number. The justices' desk is partially visible through the open doorway.
FILE PHOTO: Peter Balonon-Rosen
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IPB News
The Indiana Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in a lawsuit challenging an Indiana law that governs how a candidate affiliates with a political party in a primary election.

A state law that governs how a person becomes a candidate in a partisan primary election will remain in place after the Indiana Supreme Court took a pass on a lawsuit challenging the statute.

But the question of whether that law is constitutional remains unanswered.

In order for a candidate to affiliate with the Republican or Democratic party in an Indiana primary, they have to fulfill one of two requirements. They must have voted in that party’s primary in the last two primary elections in which they cast a ballot; or, they have to get the permission of the county party leader where they live.

Charles Bookwalter tried to get on the ballot for the 4th Congressional District Republican primary last year. But he didn’t meet those requirements.

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Bookwalter sued. Both a trial court and the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed that his lawsuit came too late — the election was over.

Bookwalter tried to get the Indiana Supreme Court to take his case, but the justices unanimously declined, leaving in place the appeals court ruling.

That ruling specifically didn’t address whether the voting record rule itself is constitutional.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.