In March 1996, California voters passed Proposition 198. Known as the Open Primary Act, the law changed the state's primary election from a closed to a blanket primary. In a blanket primary, voters can switch primaries for different offices. For instance, a registered Democrat can vote in the Republican primary for governor, the Libertarian primary for a state representative and in the Democratic primary for another office. Four political parties the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Peace and Freedom parties contend that the law infringes on their free association rights to pick and choose their own candidates. In 1997, a federal district court judge ruled the blanket primary law constitutional. On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the decision on January 21, 2000.

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