McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm.

Decision Date22 September 1993
Docket NumberNo. 92-1147,92-1147
Citation67 Ohio St.3d 391,618 N.E.2d 152
Parties, 62 USLW 2206 McINTYRE, Appellant, v. OHIO ELECTIONS COMMISSION, Appellee.
CourtOhio Supreme Court


The requirement of R.C. 3599.09 that persons responsible for the production of campaign literature pertaining to the adoption or defeat of a ballot issue identify themselves as the source thereof is not violative of the right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 11, Article I of the Ohio Constitution.

On April 27, 1988, appellant, Margaret McIntyre, distributed flyers at Blendon Middle School in Westerville, Ohio, to attendees of a meeting held to discuss the Westerville school levy. The levy had been placed on the May 3, 1988 primary election ballot. Similar flyers were deposited upon the windshields of automobiles in the school parking lot by a relative of appellant and by another person. The leaflets generally expressed opposition by appellant to the school levy. Some of the flyers failed to include the name and address of appellant as the person who produced them. Appellant was apprised of the nonconformity of this campaign literature by J. Michael Hayfield, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education for the Westerville City School District. Nevertheless, on April 28, 1988, appellant distributed similar leaflets outside the Walnut Springs Middle School in Westerville.

On March 30, 1989, a complaint against appellant was filed with appellee, Ohio Elections Commission ("OEC"), charging her, inter alia, with violations of R.C. 3599.09--distribution of campaign literature without a proper disclaimer. On March 19, 1990, a hearing was held before the OEC. On March 30, 1990, appellee issued its decision finding appellant in violation of R.C. 3599.09, and fining her $100. On April 6, 1990, appellant instituted an appeal to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court. On October 2, 1990, the common pleas court reversed the decision of appellee, concluding that R.C. 3599.09 was unconstitutional as applied. On April 7, 1992, the Tenth District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court.

The cause is now before this court pursuant to the allowance of a motion to certify the record.

George Q. Vaile, Westerville, for appellant.

Lee I. Fisher, Atty. Gen., Robert A. Zimmerman and Patrick A. Devine, Asst. Attys. Gen., for appellee.


The present action involves the constitutionality of R.C. 3599.09 insofar as it requires the identification of the author of campaign literature. In this regard, R.C. 3599.09 provides in relevant part:

"(A) No person shall write, print, post, or distribute, or cause to be written, printed, posted, or distributed, a notice, placard, dodger, advertisement, sample ballot, or any other form of general publication which is designed to promote the nomination or election or defeat of a candidate, or to promote the adoption or defeat of any issue, or to influence the voters in any election, or make an expenditure for the purpose of financing political communication through newspapers, magazines, outdoor advertising facilities, direct mailings, or other similar types of general public political advertising, or through flyers, handbills, or other nonperiodical printed matter, unless there appears on such form of publication in a conspicuous place or is contained within said statement the name and residence or business address of the chairman, treasurer, or secretary of the organization issuing the same, or the person who issues, makes, or is responsible therefor. * * * This section does not apply to the transmittal of personal correspondence that is not reproduced by machine for general distribution." (Emphasis added.)

It is the contention of appellant that the aforementioned restriction violates her right to free speech under Section 11, Article I of the Ohio Constitution, which provides in part:

"Every citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of the right; and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech, or of the press."

In reversing the common pleas court, the court of appeals relied upon the holding of this court in State v. Babst (1922), 104 Ohio St. 167, 135 N.E. 525. The syllabus thereto provides:

"Section 13343-1, General Code, appearing in Part Four, Title I, Chapter 18, entitled 'Offenses Relating To Elections,' in its operation does not restrain or abridge the liberty of speech as guaranteed by Section 11, Article I, Bill of Rights, but is regulatory in nature, and intended to prevent abuse of the right."

G.C. 13343-1 is the predecessor to R.C. 3599.09 and does not differ from it to any material extent. Nevertheless, appellant questions the continued vitality of Babst in light of subsequent decisions by the United States Supreme Court interpreting the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In particular, appellant relies upon Talley v. California (1960), 362 U.S. 60, 80 S.Ct. 536, 4 L.Ed.2d 559. In Talley, the court invalidated a city ordinance on the basis that its requirement that handbills contain the name and address of the person producing them was an unconstitutional infringement on the right to free speech. The handbills had as their purpose the organization of a consumer boycott of particular merchants who allegedly practiced racial discrimination. In concluding that the identification of the author of the handbill would run afoul of the First Amendment, the Talley court remarked:

"There can be no doubt that such an identification requirement would tend to restrict freedom to distribute information and thereby freedom of expression. 'Liberty of circulating is as essential to that freedom as liberty of publishing; indeed, without the circulation, the publication would be of little value.' Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S., at [444,] 452 [58 S.Ct. 666, 669, 82 L.Ed. 949, 954 (1938) ].

"Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all. The obnoxious press licensing law of England, which was also enforced on the Colonies was due in part to the knowledge that exposure of the names of printers, writers and distributors would lessen the circulation of literature critical of the government. The old seditious libel cases in England show the lengths to which government had to go to find out who was responsible for books that were obnoxious to the rulers. John Lilburne was whipped, pilloried and fined for refusing to answer questions designed to get evidence to convict him or someone else for the secret distribution of books in England. Two Puritan Ministers, John Penry and John Udal, were sentenced to death on charges that they were responsible for writing, printing or publishing books. Before the Revolutionary War colonial patriots frequently had to conceal their authorship or distribution of literature that easily could have brought down on them prosecutions by English-controlled courts. Along about that time the Letters of Junius were written and the identity of their author is unknown to this day. Even the Federalist Papers, written in favor of the adoption of our Constitution, were published under fictitious names. It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes." (Footnotes omitted.) 362 U.S. at 64-65, 80 S.Ct. at 538-539, 4 L.Ed.2d at 563.

However, the ordinance at issue in Talley apparently had as its only purpose the identification of the author of the handbills. Thus, in distinguishing the ordinance from other provisions which sought to prevent the dissemination of falsehoods, the court remarked:

"Counsel has urged that this ordinance is aimed at providing a way to identify those responsible for fraud, false advertising and libel. Yet the ordinance is in no manner so limited, nor have we been referred to any legislative history indicating such a purpose. Therefore we do not pass on the validity of an ordinance limited to prevent these or any other supposed evils. This ordinance simply bars all handbills under all circumstances anywhere that do not have the names and addresses printed on them in the place the ordinance requires." (Emphasis added.) 362 U.S. at 64, 80 S.Ct. at 538, 4 L.Ed.2d at 562-563.

In contrast to the ordinance at issue in Talley, appellee can legitimately claim that R.C. 3599.09 has as its purpose the identification of persons who distribute materials containing false statements. R.C. 3599.091(B) and 3599.092(B)(2) prohibit persons from making false statements during campaigns for public office and ballot issues, respectively. Accordingly, unlike Talley, the disclosure requirement is clearly meant to "identify those responsible for fraud, false advertising and libel." Moreover, in First Natl. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978), 435 U.S. 765, 98 S.Ct. 1407, 55 L.Ed.2d 707, the United States Supreme Court, while concluding that a state statute prohibiting corporate expenditures opposing or supporting ballot issues was violative of the First Amendment, nevertheless acknowledged that requirements such as the one at issue in the case herein were permissible. In rejecting the argument of the state that restrictions on corporate speech were necessary in order to allow alternative voices to be heard, the court remarked as follows:

"Moreover, the people in our democracy are entrusted with the responsibility for judging and evaluating the relative merits of conflicting arguments. [Footnote omitted.] They may consider, in making their judgment the source and credibility of the advocate. [Court's footnote 32.]" 435 U.S. at 791-792, 98 S.Ct. at 1423-1424, 55 L.Ed.2d at 727-728.

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9 cases
  • McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • April 19, 1995
    ...the constitutionality of § 3599.09(A), since neither case involved a prohibition of anonymous campaign literature. Pp. __. (1993) 67 Ohio St.3d 391, 618 N.E.2d 152, STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined. GINSBU......
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    • November 28, 1994
    ...further light on the appropriate standard to apply in assessing the constitutionality of election laws. In McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm. (1993) 67 Ohio St.3d 391, 618 N.E.2d 152, certiorari granted 1994, 510 U.S. 1108 [114 S.Ct. 1047, 127 L.Ed.2d 370], the Ohio Supreme Court determined t......
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