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Dems private act unconstitutional, AG opines
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COOPER
State Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr. has rendered an opinion that the 1949 private act that dictates how the DeKalb County Democratic Party chooses its executive committee is unconstitutional.The 64-year-old private act forming the DeKalb County Democratic Executive Committee was last amended by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1972, and dictates that 40 members be elected from 19 precincts in the county. Many of the old precincts in the statute apparently no longer exist, and efforts by party officials to find their boundary’s met with little success.While the private act does not provide any recourse for redrawing the lost precincts, it requires that executive committee members be elected on the primary ballot every two years, which has not been done for several years.Local party leaders asked for the opinion of the attorney general on the constitutionality of the private act in an effort to find out whether executive committee members could be appointed under the Tennessee Democratic Party rules rather than be elected. In Cooper's opinion he concludes that the party has a constitutional right to organize any way it sees fit, and that the legislature has no constitutional right to place burdensome restrictions on political parties in how they may organize.In his opinion, the attorney general wrote that “The statute constitutionally burdens the associated rights of the Tennessee Democratic Party and its members in DeKalb County and therefore is unenforceable.”Local party leaders asked for an opinion from the attorney general on Oct. 21, asking whether the DeKalb County Democratic Party could stop following the rules of the private act and hold a reorganization convention according to Tennessee Democratic Party rules, organizing every two years for the purpose of conducting business.The opinion was issued Nov. 19Cooper wrote that “A political party's determination of the boundaries of its own association, and of the structure which best allows it to pursue its political goals, is protected by the United States Constitution.”

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