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NATION : High Court to Rule on Prop. 49

From Times Wire Services

The Supreme Court today agreed to decide whether states may ban political parties from taking sides in nonpartisan elections of judges and local government officials. The court said it will consider reviving a voter-approved ban on party backing in such races in California.

Since 1913, California has conducted all city, county, school board and judicial elections on a nonpartisan basis, meaning candidates’ names appear on the ballot without party labels.

Nonpartisan elections sprang from an early 20th-Century reform movement that sought to break the grip of big-money interests in the state by weakening political parties.

But only since 1986 has the state sought to ban all party endorsements in the contests. That year, state voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 49 to amend the state constitution and prohibit the endorsements.

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