No Political Party Identifiers, No Problem

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By Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson

Virginia can prohibit the use of political party identifiers for local elections even though it allows those designations for federal, statewide and General Assembly offices, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said Feb. 21 ( Marcellus v. Va. State Bd. of Elections , 2017 BL 52014, 4th Cir., No. 16-1331, 2/21/17 ).

The prohibition does impinge on the candidates’ First Amendment right to free association, but it does so only minimally, the court said.

The court upheld the prohibition because it is “amply justified by Virginia’s important interests, which include minimizing partisanship at the local government level, promoting impartial governance, and maximizing the number of citizens eligible to hold local office,” it said.

The case demonstrates what the court called the states’ “broad power” over elections.

Judge Paul V. Niemeyer wrote the court’s opinion, which was joined by Judges William B. Traxler, Jr. and Pamela A. Harris.

McSweeney, Cynkar & Kachouroff PLLC, Powhatan, Virginia, represented the candidates. The Virginia Office of the Attorney General represented the state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at

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