Before Sentelle, Circuit Judge, Jackson, District Judge, and
Kennedy, District Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam.
OPINION ON MOTION TO DISMISS
This three-judge court was convened to consider a Voting Rights
Act case arising out of Lyndon LaRouche's unsuccessful campaign
to capture the Democratic Party's 1996 nomination for President
of the United States. The suit was originally filed on August 2,
1996, and also contained additional constitutional claims. The
application for a three-judge court was denied and the entire
complaint dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The court
of appeals then affirmed in part and remanded in part, which
required the assembly of a three-judge court on the claims under
the Act. See LaRouche v. Fowler, 152 F.3d 974, 998 (D.C.Cir.
1998). We now consider the remaining portions of defendants'
motions to dismiss. We conclude that the defendant Democratic
National Party is not a covered jurisdiction under the Act, and
that the defendant state parties are not required to request
preclearance of national party rules. We therefore grant the
The focus of this action is on Democratic National Committee
("DNC") rules which essentially extinguished Lyndon LaRouche's
chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination in
1996. The facts are already detailed extensively in the opinion
of the court of appeals. See id. at 975-77. We restate the
relevant facts here.
LaRouche first announced his presidential bid on August 7,
1993. On March 12, 1994, the DNC adopted Delegate Selection Rules
for their 1996 convention. Rule 11(K) stated:
For purposes of these rules, a Democratic candidate
for President must be registered to vote, must be a
declared Democrat, and must, as determined by the
Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, have
established a bona fide record of public service,
accomplishment, public writings and/or public
statements affirmatively demonstrating that he or she
has the interests, welfare and success of the
Democratic Party of the United States at heart and
will participate in the Convention in good faith.
The DNC also promulgated its "Call to the 1996 Democratic
National Convention," in which Article IV defined a presidential
any person who, as determined by the National
Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, has
accrued delegates in the nominating process and plans
to seek the nomination, has established substantial
support for his or her nomination as the Democratic
candidate for the Office of the President of the
United States, is a bona fide Democrat whose record
of public service, accomplishment, public writings
and/or public statements affirmatively demonstrates
that he or she is faithful to the interests, welfare
and success of the Democratic Party of the United
States, and will participate in the Convention in
LaRouche qualified for a position on the Democratic party
ballot in a number of states by the spring of 1996. But on
January 5, 1996, DNC Chairman Donald L. Fowler sent a letter to
the chairpersons of all state Democratic Party organizations.
Under Rule 11(K) and Article IV (the "Rules"), Fowler stated in
relevant part that LaRouche was "not a bona fide Democrat," as
shown by his "beliefs which are explicitly racist and
anti-Semitic, and otherwise utterly contrary to the fundamental
beliefs . . . of the Democratic Party. . . ." Thus, LaRouche was
"not to be considered a qualified candidate," and "state parties
. . . should disregard any votes that might be cast for Mr.
Larouche [sic], should not allocate delegate positions to Mr.
Larouche and should not recognize the selection of delegates
pledged to him at any stage of the Delegate Selection Process."
The letter further stated that "Mr. Larouche will not be entitled
to have his name placed in nomination for the office of President
at the 1996 Democratic National Convention."
LaRouche was not excluded from any primary ballots as a result
of this letter. But, he alleges that he received enough votes to
receive representation in Democratic nominating activities in
Louisiana, Virginia, Texas, and Arizona, and the District of
Columbia. Due to the Fowler letter, however, each of these
jurisdictions denied LaRouche such representation.
LaRouche and his supporters then filed this suit against
Fowler, the DNC, and the state Democratic parties and various
party officials of each of the above-mentioned states (the "state
defendants"). He alleged that the Democratic Party nominating
procedures which undermined his campaign had been adopted
unlawfully because they were not precleared under the Voting
Rights Act (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 1973 et seq., and also
violated his Constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He
also requested the appointment of a three judge court.
The one-judge district court denied the application and
dismissed the entire action. The court of appeals affirmed the
dismissal of some claims. First, claims against the District of
Columbia Democratic Party were dismissed because it is not a
"covered jurisdiction" subject to preclearance under the Act.
See LaRouche, 152 F.3d at 986. Second, the court of appeals
affirmed the dismissal of LaRouche's § 1983 claims. See id. at
The appeals court remanded the Voting Rights Act claims against
Fowler, the DNC, and the state defendants. It noted that a single
judge may dismiss claims under the Act only if the plaintiff's
challenge is "wholly insubstantial" or "obviously frivolous."
Id. at 982-83. Because the extent to which political party
activities are subject to the Act is not clear after Morse v.
Republican Party, 517 U.S. 186, 116 S.Ct. 1186, 134 L.Ed.2d 347
(1996), and although that case might be distinguishable, the
court was unable to say that the plaintiffs' ...