Storer v. Brown Frommhagen v. Brown 8212 812, 72 8212 6050

Decision Date26 March 1974
Docket NumberNos. 72,s. 72
Citation415 U.S. 724,39 L.Ed.2d 714,94 S.Ct. 1274
PartiesThomas Tone STORER et al., Appellants, v. Edmund G. BROWN, Jr., et al. Laurence H. FROMMHAGEN, Appellant, v. Edmund G. BROWN, Jr., et al. —812, 72—6050
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Section 6830(d) (Supp.1974) of the California Elections Code forbids ballot position to an independent candidate for elective public office if he had a registered affiliation with a qualified political party within one year prior to the immediately preceding primary election; § 6831 (1961) requires an independent candidate's nominating papers to be signed by voters not less in number than 5% nor more than 6% of the entire vote cast in the preceding general election; § 6833 (Supp.1974) requires all such signatures to be obtained during a 24-day period following the primary and ending 60 days prior to the general election; and § 6830(c) (Supp.1974) requires that none of such signatures be those of persons who voted at the primary. Appellants Storer and Frommhagen were disqualified under § 6830(d) (Supp.1974) for ballot status as independent candidates for Congress in the 1972 California elections because they were affiliated with a qualified party no more than six months prior to the primary. Appellants Hall and Tyner were disqualified for ballot status as independent candidates for President and Vice President in the same election for failure to meet petition requirements. Appellants brought actions challenging the constitutionality of the above provisions, claiming that their combined effect infringed on rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. A three-judge District Court dismissed the complaints, concluding that the statutes served a sufficiently important state interest to sustain their constitutionality. Held:

1. Section 6830(d) (Supp.1974) is not unconstitutional, and appellants Storer and Frommhagen (who were affiliated with a qualified party no more than six months before the primary) were properly barred from the ballot as a result of its application. Pp. 728—737.

(a) The provision reflects a general state policy aimed at maintaining the integrity of the various routes to the ballot, and involves no discrimination against independents. Though an independent candidate must be clear of party affiliations for a year before the primary, a party candidate under § 6490 (Supp.1974) of the Code must not have been registered with another party for a year before he files his declaration, which must be done not less than 83 days and not more than 113 days prior to the primary. Pp. 733—734.

(b) The provision protects the direct primary process, which is an integral part of the entire election process by refusing to recognize independent candidates who do not make early plans to leave a party and take the alternative course to the ballot; works against independent candidacies prompted by short-range political goals, pique or personal quarrel; is a substantial barrier to a party fielding an 'independent' candidate to capture and bleed off votes in the general election that might well go to another party; and thus furthers the State's compelling interest in the stability of its political system, outweighing the interest the candidate and his supporters may have in making a late rather than an early decision to seek independent ballot status. Pp. 734—735.

2. Further proceedings should be had in the District Court to permit additional findings concerning the extent of the burden imposed on independent candidates for President and Vice President under California law, particularly with respect to whether § 6831 (1961) and § 6833 (Supp.1974) place an unconstitutional restriction on access by appellants Hall and Tyner to the ballot. Pp. 738—746.

(a) It should be determined whether the available pool of possible signers of the nominating papers is so diminished by the disqualification of those who voted in the primary that the 5% provision, which as applied here apparently imposes a 325,000-signature requirement, to be satisfied in 24 days, is unduly onerous. Pp. 739—740.

(b) While the District Court apparently took the view that California law disqualified anyone who voted in the primary from signing an independent's petition, whether or not the vote was confined to nonpartisan matters, it would be difficult on the record before this Court to ascertain any rational ground, let alone a compelling interest, for disqualifying nonpartisan primary voters. Pp. 741—742.

(c) Once the District Court ascertains the number of signatures required in the 24-day period, along with the total pool from which they may be drawn, the court then, in determining whether in the context of California politics a reasonably diligent independent candidate could be expected to satisfy the signature requirements or will only rarely succeed in securing ballot placement, should consider not only past experience, but also the relationship between the showing of support through a petition requirement and the percentage of the vote the State can reasonably expect of a candidate who achieves ballot status in the general election. Pp. 742—746.

Affirmed in part, vacated and remanded in part.

Paul N. Halvonik and Joseph Remcho, San Francisco, Cal., for appellants.

Clayton P. Roche, San Francisco, Cal., for appellees.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The California Elections Code forbids ballot position to an independent candidate for elective public office if he voted in the immediately preceding primary, § 6830(c) (Supp.1974),1 or if he had a registered affiliation with a qualified political party at any time within one year prior to the immediately preceding primary election. § 6830(d) (Supp.1974). The independent candidate must also file nomination papers signed by voters not less in number than 5% nor more than 6% of the entire vote cast in the preceding general election in the area for which the candidate seeks to run. § 6831 (1961). All of these signatures must be obtained during a 24-day period following the primary and ending 60 days prior to the general election, § 6833 (Supp.1974), and none of the signatures may be gathered from persons who vote at the primary election. § 6830(c) (Supp.1974). The constitutionality of these provisions is challenged here as infringing on rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments and as adding qualifications for the office of United States Congressman, contrary to Art. I, § 2, cl. 2, of the Constitution.

Prior to the 1972 elections, appellants Storer, Frommhagen, Hall, and Tyner, along with certain of their supporters, filed their actions2 to have the above sections of the Elections Code declared unconstitutional and their enforcement enjoined. Storer and Frommhagen each sought ballot status as an independent candidate for Congressman for his district.3 Both complained about the party disaffiliation requirement of § 6830(d) (Supp.1974) and asserted that the combined effects of the provisions were unconstitutional burdens on their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Hall and Tyner claimed the right to ballot position as independent candidates for President and Vice President of the United States. They were members of the Communist Party but that party had not qualified for ballot position in California. They, too, complained of the combined effect of the indicated sections of the Election Code on their ability to achieve ballot position.

A three-judge District Court concluded that the statutes served a sufficiently important state interest to sustain their constitutionality and dismissed the complaints. Two separate appeals were taken from the judgment. We noted probable jurisdiction and consolidated the cases for oral argument. 410 U.S. 965, 93 S.Ct. 1441, 35 L.Ed.2d 700 (1973).

I

We affirm the judgment of the District Court insofar as it refused relief to Storer and Frommhagen with respect to the 1972 general election. Both men were registered Democrats until early 17 1972, Storer until January and Frommhagen until March of that year. This affiliation with a qualified political party within a year prior to the 1972 primary disqualified both men under § 6830(d) (Supp.1974); and in our view the State of California was not prohibited by the United States Constitution from enforcing that provision against these men.

In Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24 (1968), the Court held that although the citizens of a State are free to associate with one of the two major political parties, to participate in the nomination of their chosen party's candidates for public office and then to cast their ballots in the general election, the State must also provide feasible means for other political parties and other candidates to appear on the general election ballot. The Ohio law under examination in that case made no provision for independent candidates and the requirements for any but the two major parties qualifying for the ballot were so burdensome that it was 'virtually impossible' for other parties, new or old, to achieve ballot position for their can- didates. Id., at 25, 89 S.Ct., at 7. Because these restrictions, which were challenged under the Equal Protection Clause, severely burdened the right to associate for political purposes and the right to vote effectively, the Court, borrowing from other cases, ruled that the discriminations against new parties and their candidates had to be justified by compelling state interests. The Court recognized the substantial state interest in encouraging compromise and political stability, in attempting to ensure that the election winner will represent a majority of the community and in providing the electorate with an understandable ballot and inferred that 'reasonable requirements for ballot position,' id., at 32, 89 S.Ct., at 11, would be acceptable. But these important...

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