Anderson v. Celebrezze

Decision Date19 April 1983
Docket NumberNo. 81-1635,81-1635
Citation103 S.Ct. 1564,75 L.Ed.2d 547,460 U.S. 780
PartiesJohn B. ANDERSON, et al., Petitioners, v. Anthony J. CELEBREZZE, Jr., Secretary of State of Ohio
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

An Ohio statute requires an independent candidate for President to file a statement of candidacy and nominating petition in March in order to appear on the general election ballot in November. On April 24, 1980, petitioner Anderson announced that he was an independent candidate for President. Thereafter, on May 16, 1980, his supporters tendered a nominating petition and statement of candidacy, satisfying the substantive requirements for ballot eligibility, to respondent Ohio Secretary of State. Respondent refused to accept the documents because they had not been filed within the time required by the Ohio statute. Anderson and petitioner voters then filed an action in Federal District Court, challenging the constitutionality of the statute. The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioners and ordered respondent to place Anderson's name on the general election ballot, holding that the statutory deadline was unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the early deadline served the State's interest in voter education by giving voters a longer opportunity to see how Presidential candidates withstand the close scrutiny of a political campaign.

Held: Ohio's early filing deadline places an unconstitutional burden on the voting and associational rights of petitioner Anderson's supporters. Pp. 786-806.

(a) In resolving constitutional challenges to a State's election laws, a court must first consider the character and magnitude of the asserted injury to the rights protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments that the plaintiff seeks to vindicate. It must then identify and evaluate the interests asserted by the State to justify the burden imposed by its rule. In passing judgment, the Court must not only determine the legitimacy and strength of each of these interests, it must also consider the extent to which those interests make it necessary to burden the plaintiff's rights. Only after weighing all these factors is the court in a position to decide whether the challenged provision is unconstitutional. Pp. 1568-1570.

(b) The Ohio filing deadline not only burdens the associational rights of independent voters and candidates, it also places a significant state-imposed restriction on a nationwide electoral process. A burden that falls unequally on independent candidates or on new or small political parties impinges, by its very nature, on associational choices protected by the First Amendment, and discriminates against those candidates and voters whose political preferences lie outside the existing political parties. And in the context of a Presidential election, state-imposed restrictions implicate a uniquely important national interest, because the President and Vice President are the only elected officials who represent all the voters in the Nation, and the impact of the votes cast in each State affects the votes cast in other States. Pp. 790-795.

(c) None of the three interests that Ohio seeks to further by its early filing deadline justifies that deadline. As to the State's asserted interest in voter education, it is unrealistic in the modern world to suggest that it takes more than seven months to inform the electorate about the qualifications of a particular candidate simply because he lacks a partisan label. Moreover, it is not self-evident that the interest in voter education is served at all by the early filing deadline. The State's asserted interest in equal treatment for partisan and independent candidates is not achieved by imposing the early filing deadline on both, since, although a candidate participating in a primary election must declare his candidacy on the same date as an independent, both the burdens and benefits of the respective requirements are materially different, and the reasons for early filing for a primary candidate are inapplicable to independent candidates in the general election. And the State's asserted interest in political stability amounts to a desire to protect existing political parties from competition generated by independent candidates who have previously been affiliated with a party, an interest that conflicts with First Amendment values. The Ohio deadline does not serve any state interest "in maintaining the integrity of the various routes to the ballot" for the Presidency, because Ohio's Presidential preference primary does not serve to narrow the field for the general election. Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724, 94 S.Ct. 1274, 39 L.Ed.2d 714, distinguished. The deadline is not drawn to protect the parties from "intraparty feuding" and may actually impair the State's interest in preserving party harmony. Pp. 796-806.

664 F.2d 554, reversed.

George T. Frampton, Jr., Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Joel S. Taylor, Columbus, Ohio, for respondent.

Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

On April 24, 1980, petitioner John Anderson announced that he was an independent candidate for the office of President of the United States. Thereafter, his supporters—by gathering the signatures of registered voters, filing required documents, and submitting filing fees—were able to meet the substantive requirements for having his name placed on the ballot for the general election in November 1980 in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. On April 24, however, it was already too late for Anderson to qualify for a position on the ballot in Ohio and certain other states because the statutory deadlines for filing a statement of candidacy had already passed. The question presented by this case is whether Ohio's early filing deadline placed an unconstitutional burden on the voting and associational rights of Anderson's supporters.

The facts are not in dispute. On May 16, 1980, Anderson's supporters tendered a nominating petition containing approximately 14,500 signatures and a statement of candidacy to respondent Celebrezze, the Ohio Secretary of State. These documents would have entitled Anderson to a place on the ballot if they had been filed on or before March 20, 1980. Respondent refused to accept the petition solely because it had not been filed within the time required by § 3513.257 of the Ohio Revised Code.1 Three days later Anderson and three voters, two registered in Ohio and one in New Jersey, commenced this action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's early filing deadline for independent candidates. The District Court granted petitioners' motion for summary judgment and ordered respondent to place Anderson's name on the general election ballot. 499 F.Supp. 121 (SD Ohio 1980).

The District Court held that the statutory deadline was unconstitutional on two grounds. It imposed an impermissible burden on the First Amendment rights of Anderson and his Ohio supporters and diluted the potential value of votes that might be cast for him in other States. Moreover, by requiring an independent to declare his candidacy in March without mandating comparable action by the nominee of a political party, the State violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court noted that the State did not advance any administrative reasons for the early deadline and rejected the State's asserted justification that the deadline promoted "political stability." Not only did that interest have diminished importance in a Presidential campaign; it also was adequately vindicated by another statute prohibiting a defeated candidate in a party primary from running as an independent.2

The Secretary of State promptly appealed and unsuccessfully requested expedited review in both the Court of Appeals and this Court, but apparently did not seek to stay the District Court's order.3 The election was held while the appeal was pending. In Ohio Anderson received 254,472 votes, or 5.9 percent of the votes cast; nationally, he received 5,720,060 votes or approximately 6.6 percent of the total.4

The Court of Appeals reversed. It first inferred that the Court's summary affirmances in Sweetenham v. Rhodes, 318 F.Supp. 1262 (SD Ohio 1970), summarily aff'd, 409 U.S. 942, 93 S.Ct. 282, 34 L.Ed.2d 214 (1972), and Pratt v. Begley, 352 F.Supp. 328 (ED Ky.1970), summarily aff'd, 409 U.S. 943, 93 S.Ct. 282, 34 L.Ed.2d 214 (1972), had implicitly sustained the validity of early filing deadlines. Then, correctly recognizing the limited precedential effect to be accorded summary dispositions,5 the Court of Appeals independently reached the same conclusion. It held that Ohio's early deadline "ensures that voters making the important choice of their next president have the opportunity for a careful look at the candidates, a chance to see how they withstand the close scrutiny of a political campaign." 664 F.2d 554, 563 (CA6 1981).

In other litigation brought by Anderson challenging early filing deadlines in Maine and Maryland, the Courts of Appeals for the First and Fourth Circuits affirmed District Court judgments ordering Anderson's name placed on the ballot. See Anderson v. Quinn, 495 F.Supp. 730 (Me.1980), affirmance order, 634 F.2d 616 (CA1 1980); Anderson v. Morris, 500 F.Supp. 1095 (Md.1980), aff'd, 636 F.2d 55 (CA4 1980).6 The conflict among the Circuits on an important question of constitutional law led us to grant certiorari. --- U.S. ----, 102 S.Ct. 2035, 72 L.Ed.2d 483 (1982). We now reverse.


After a date toward the end of March, even if intervening events create unanticipated political opportunities, no independent candidate may enter the Presidential race and seek to place his name on the Ohio general election ballot. Thus the direct impact of Ohio's early filing deadline falls upon aspirants for office. Nevertheless, as ...

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