393 U.S. 23 (1968), 543, Williams v. Rhodes

Docket Nº:No. 543
Citation:393 U.S. 23, 89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24
Party Name:Williams v. Rhodes
Case Date:October 15, 1968
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 23

393 U.S. 23 (1968)

89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24

Williams

v.

Rhodes

No. 543

United States Supreme Court

Oct. 15, 1968

Argued October 7, 1968

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO

Syllabus

Under the Ohio election laws a new political party seeking ballot position in presidential elections must obtain petitions signed by qualified electors totaling 15% of the number of ballots cast in the last gubernatorial election, and must file these petitions early in February of the election year. These requirements and other restrictive statutory provisions virtually preclude a new party's qualifying for ballot position, and no provision exists for independent candidates doing so. The Republican and Democratic Parties may retain their ballot positions by polling 10% of the votes in the last gubernatorial election, and need not obtain signature petitions. The Ohio American Independent Party (an appellant in No. 543), was formed in January, 1968, and, during the next six months, by securing over 450,000 signatures, exceeded the 15% requirement but was denied ballot position because the February deadline had expired. The Socialist Labor Party (an appellant in No. 544), an old party with a small membership, could not meet the 15% requirement. Both Parties brought actions challenging the Ohio election laws as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge District Court held those laws unconstitutional and ruled that the Parties were entitled to write-in space, but not ballot position. The Parties appealed to this Court. The Independent Party immediately sought interlocutory relief from MR. JUSTICE STEWART, which he granted by order after a hearing at which Ohio represented that it could place the Party's name on the ballot without disrupting the election if there was not a long delay. Several days after that order, the Socialist Labor Party sought a stay which he denied because of that Party's failure to move quickly for relief, the State having represented that, at that time, the granting of relief would disrupt the election.

Held:

1. The controversy in these cases is justiciable. P. 28.

Page 24

2. State laws enacted pursuant to Art. II, § 1, of the Constitution to regulate the selection of electors must meet the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 28-29.

3. Ohio's restrictive election laws, taken as a whole, are invidiously discriminatory and violate the Equal Protection Clause because they give the two old, established parties a decided advantage over new parties. Pp. 30-34.

(a) The state laws here involved heavily burden the right of individuals to associate for the advancement of political beliefs and the right of qualified voters to cast their votes effectively. Pp. 30-31.

(b) The State has shown no "compelling interest" justifying those burdens. Pp. 31-32.

4. Under the circumstances here, Ohio must allow the Independent Party and its candidates for President and Vice President to remain on the ballot, subject to compliance with valid state laws. Ohio is not at this late date required to place the Socialist Labor Party on the ballot for the coming election. Pp. 34-35.

290 F.Supp. 983, No. 543, modified; No. 544, affirmed.

BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The State of Ohio, in a series of election laws, has made it virtually impossible for a new political party, even though it has hundreds of thousands of members, or an old party which has a very small number of members, to be placed on the state ballot to choose electors pledged to particular candidates for the Presidency and Vice Presidency of the United States.

Ohio Revised Code, § 3517.01, requires a new party to obtain petitions signed by qualified electors totaling 15%

Page 25

of the number of ballots cast in the last preceding gubernatorial election. The detailed provisions of other Ohio election laws result in the imposition of substantial additional burdens, which were accurately summarized in Judge Kinneary's dissenting opinion in the court below and were substantially agreed on by the other members of that court.1 Together, these various restrictive provisions make it virtually [89 S.Ct. 8] impossible for any party to qualify on the ballot except the Republican and Democratic Parties. These two Parties face substantially smaller burdens because they are allowed to retain their

Page 26

positions on the ballot simply by obtaining 10% of the votes in the last gubernatorial election, and need not obtain any signature petitions. Moreover, Ohio laws make no provision for ballot position for independent candidates, as distinguished from political parties. The State of Ohio claims the power to keep minority parties and independent candidates off the ballot under Art. II, § 1, of the Constitution, which provides that:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress. . . .

The Ohio American Independent Party, an appellant in No. 543, and the Socialist Labor Party, an appellant in No. 544, both brought suit to challenge the validity of these Ohio laws as applied to them, on the ground that they deny these Parties and the voters who might wish to vote for them the equal protection of the laws, guaranteed against state abridgment by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The three-judge District Court designated to try the case ruled these restrictive Ohio election laws unconstitutional, but refused to grant the Parties the full relief they had sought, 290 F.Supp. 983 (D.C.S.D. Ohio 1968), and both Parties have appealed to this Court. The cases arose in this way:

The Ohio American Independent Party was formed in January, 1968, by Ohio partisans of former Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama. During the following six months, a campaign was conducted for obtaining signatures on petitions to give the Party a place on the ballot, and over 450,000 signatures were eventually obtained, more than the 433,100 required. The State contends, and the Independent Party agrees, that, due to the interaction of several provisions of the Ohio laws, such petitions were required to be filed by February 7, 1968,

Page 27

and so the Secretary of the State of Ohio informed the Party that it would not be given a place on the ballot. Neither in the pleadings, the affidavits before the District Court, the arguments there, nor in our Court has the State denied that the petitions were signed by enough qualified electors of Ohio to meet the 15% requirement under Ohio law. Having demonstrated its numerical strength, the Independent Party argued that this and the other burdens, including the early deadline for filing petitions and the requirement of a primary election conforming to detailed and rigorous standards, denied the Party and certain Ohio voters equal protection of the laws. The three-judge District Court unanimously agreed with this contention, and ruled that the State must be required to provide a space for write-in votes. A majority of the District Court refused to hold, however, that the Party's name must be printed on the ballot, on the ground that Wallace and his adherents had been guilty of "laches" by filing their suit too late to allow the Ohio Legislature an opportunity to remedy, in time for the presidential balloting, the defects which the District Court held the law possessed. The appellants in No. 543 then moved before MR. JUSTICE STEWART, Circuit Justice for the Sixth Circuit, for an injunction which would order the Party's candidates to be put on the ballot pending appeal. After consulting with the other members of the Court who were available, and after the State represented that the grant of interlocutory [89 S.Ct. 9] relief would be in the interests of the efficient operation of the electoral machinery if this Court considered the chances of successful challenge to the Ohio statutes good, MR. JUSTICE STEWART granted the injunction.

The Socialist Labor Party, an appellant in No. 544, has all the formal attributes of a regular party. It has conventions and a State Executive Committee, as required by the Ohio law, and it was permitted to have a place on

Page 28

the ballot until 1948. Since then, however, it has not filed petitions with the total signatures required under new Ohio laws for ballot position, and, indeed, it conceded it could not do so this year. The same three-judge panel heard the Party's suit and reached a similar result -- write-in space was ordered, but ballot position was denied the Socialist Labor Party. In this case, the District Court assigned both the Party's small membership of 108 and its delay in bringing suit as reasons for refusing to order more complete relief for the 1968 election. A motion to stay the District Court's judgment was presented to MR. JUSTICE STEWART several days after he had ordered similar relief in the Independent Party case. The motion was denied principally because of the Socialist Party's failure to move quickly to obtain relief, with the consequent confusion that would be caused by requiring Ohio once again to begin completely reprinting its election ballots, but the case was set by this Court for oral argument, along with the Independent Party case.

I

Ohio's claim that the political question doctrine precludes judicial consideration of these cases requires very little discussion. That claim has been rejected in cases of this kind numerous times. It was rejected by the Court unanimously in 1892 in the case of McPherson v. Blacker, 146 U.S. 1, 23-24, and more recently it has been squarely rejected in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 208-237 (1962), and in Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 7 (1964). Other cases to...

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1257 practice notes
  • 301 F.Supp. 1345 (D.Del. 1969), Civ. A. 3616, Wright v. Richter
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit District of Delaware
    • July 10, 1969
    ...to exercise the franchise in an open and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civil and political rights, Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 29-30, 89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24 (1968); Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 561-562, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964); Wesberry v. Sanders,......
  • 500 F.Supp. 1195 (N.D.Ala. 1980), Civ. A. 80-C-1278, Whig Party of Alabama v. Siegelman
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Northern District of Alabama
    • October 9, 1980
    ...observed that "(T)he freedom to associate as a political party, a right we have recognized as fundamental, see Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 89 S.Ct. 5, at 30-31, 21 L.Ed.2d 24, has diminished practical value if the party can be kept off the ballot. Access restrictions also implicat......
  • 522 F.Supp.2d 1121 (E.D.Ark. 2007), 4 06CV01382, Billings v. Aeropres Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit Eastern District of Arkansas
    • November 9, 2007
    ...(right to vote); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 89 S.Ct. 1322, 22 L.Ed.2d 600 (1969) (right of interstate travel); Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24 (1968) (free [23] Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 416 F.3d 738, 749 (8th Cir.2005). [24] Shipley, Inc. v.......
  • 540 F.2d 1360 (9th Cir. 1976), 75-1412, Baldwin v. Redwood City
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • August 9, 1976
    ...expression 'at the core of our electoral process and of the First Amendment freedoms.' " Id. at 644, quoting Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 32, 89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24 (1968). Such a restriction can be upheld only if "the governmental interests advanced in its support satisfy ......
  • Free signup to view additional results
1214 cases
  • 301 F.Supp. 1345 (D.Del. 1969), Civ. A. 3616, Wright v. Richter
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit District of Delaware
    • July 10, 1969
    ...to exercise the franchise in an open and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civil and political rights, Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 29-30, 89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24 (1968); Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 561-562, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964); Wesberry v. Sanders,......
  • 500 F.Supp. 1195 (N.D.Ala. 1980), Civ. A. 80-C-1278, Whig Party of Alabama v. Siegelman
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Northern District of Alabama
    • October 9, 1980
    ...observed that "(T)he freedom to associate as a political party, a right we have recognized as fundamental, see Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 89 S.Ct. 5, at 30-31, 21 L.Ed.2d 24, has diminished practical value if the party can be kept off the ballot. Access restrictions also implicat......
  • 522 F.Supp.2d 1121 (E.D.Ark. 2007), 4 06CV01382, Billings v. Aeropres Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit Eastern District of Arkansas
    • November 9, 2007
    ...(right to vote); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 89 S.Ct. 1322, 22 L.Ed.2d 600 (1969) (right of interstate travel); Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24 (1968) (free [23] Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 416 F.3d 738, 749 (8th Cir.2005). [24] Shipley, Inc. v.......
  • 540 F.2d 1360 (9th Cir. 1976), 75-1412, Baldwin v. Redwood City
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • August 9, 1976
    ...expression 'at the core of our electoral process and of the First Amendment freedoms.' " Id. at 644, quoting Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 32, 89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24 (1968). Such a restriction can be upheld only if "the governmental interests advanced in its support satisfy ......
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1 firm's commentaries
  • Decision of the Court of Appeals
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • October 1, 2014
    ...order to address dangers that are remote and only ‘theoretically imaginable.’” Frank, 2014 WL 1775432, at *8 (quoting Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 33 (1968)). Indeed, the best fact for North Carolina in the district court’s opinion—the only specific problem cited, beyond naked statement......
34 books & journal articles
  • The designated nonpublic forum: remedying the Forbes mistake.
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 67 Nbr. 1, September 2003
    • September 22, 2003
    ...decisions by restricting the flow of information to them must be viewed with some skepticism."). (407) See, e.g., Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 33 (1968) (identifying that the potential for voter confusion would be a sufficient state interest to regulate ballot access only where the......
  • Abolishing the time tax on voting.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 85 Nbr. 1, November 2009
    • November 1, 2009
    ...having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live."). (194) Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 30 (1968); see also Cal. Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U.S. 567, 574 (2000) ("[T]he First Amendment protects 'the freedom to join toget......
  • Populism, free speech, and the rule of law: the "fully informed" jury movement and its implications.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 88 Nbr. 1, September 1997
    • September 22, 1997
    ...(132) Boos v. Barry, 485 U.S. 312, 318 (1988) (quoting New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964)). See also Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 32 (1968) ("[c]ompetition in ideas and government policies is at the core of our electoral process and of the First Amendment Freedoms......
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    • United States
    • The Journal of High Technology Law Vol. 18 Nbr. 2, January 2018
    • January 1, 2018
    ...the classification promote? What fundamental personal rights might the classification endanger?" Id.; see also Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 32 (1986) (citing NAACP v. Button, 371, U.S. 415, 438 (1963). In deciding whether the State has power to place unequal burdens on minority gro......
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