Swanson v. Kramer

Decision Date19 July 1973
Docket NumberNo. 42502,42502
Citation512 P.2d 721,82 Wn.2d 511
PartiesDouglas W. SWANSON, Plaintiff, Ann Montague et al., Appellants, v. A. Ludlow KRAMER, Secretary of State for the State of Washington, Respondent.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Eugene M. Moen, Barry E. Barnes, F.T.C., Seattle, for appellants.

Slade Gorton, Atty. Gen., Wayne L. Williams, Asst. Atty. Gen., Olympia, for respondent.

HALE, Chief Justice.

Plaintiffs sought nomination to public office at the September, 1972, primary election, claiming that they could not afford the filing fee nor the cost of campaign advertising in the state-distributed candidates' pamphlet. They requested a declaratory judgment holding unconstitutional and void RCW 29.18.050, 29.24.070 and 29.80.050, which require the payment of candidate filing fees and for participating in the state's candidates' pamphlet. From a summary judgment of the Superior Court of Thurston County dismissing the complaint, the case comes here on an agreed statement of facts.

The plaintiffs are citizens of the United States, electors of the state, and qualified to run for public office. Before the candidate's name may be placed on the ballot, the Secretary of State, under RCW 29.18.050, must require of him a fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary of the office which he seeks. The Secretary of State prepares and furnishes a candidates' pamphlet to each registered voter in the state. RCW 29.80.010.

A candidates' pamphlet containing the photograph and campaign statement of each eligible nominee who desires to participate is mailed to all voters of this state prior to each state general election by a mandate in RCW 29.80.010. In order for material to be published and distributed in the candidate's pamphlet, RCW 29.80.050 requires a fee of $200 for United States Senator, Representative in Congress, and Governor, and $100 for other state offices. New or minor political parties, as the statute describes them, may nominate at conventions held on the day of the primary election. RCW 29.24.020. Candidates so nominated may then file their declarations of candidacy with the Secretary of State, but must, nevertheless, pay the 1 percent filing fee to get on the general election ballot. RCW 29.24.070.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Plaintiffs Ann Montague and Judith A. Moschetto are members of the Socialist Workers Party and would seek that party's nomination for Secretary of State and Seventh District Representative in Congress, respectively. Filing fees are $150 for the office of Secretary of State and $425 for the office of Congressman. Plaintiff Gary M. Johnson, candidate for the nonpartisan office of Superintendent of Public Instruction must pay a fee of $225 before his declaration of candidacy will be accepted and his named placed on the primary election ballot. The Secretary of State informed all plaintiffs, that, if they were nominated by convention, he would require payment of the filing fees before their names could go on the general election ballot; he would also require them to pay the statutory fees for their participation in the candidates' pamphlet.

Plaintiffs Montague and Johnson, according to the statement of facts, were 'unemployed, receiving no income, and living with family or friends.' Plaintiff Moschetto was 'employed and earning between $400.00 and $500.00 per month.' It was agreed that each, for the purposes of this action, could not afford the filing fee or the fee for the candidates' pamphlet. The record does not reveal that any of the plaintiffs, prior to commencing this suit, had attempted to raise campaign funds or solicit contributions with which to pay the fees.

Other parties joined in this action as plaintiffs, alleging that they are all qualified and registered voters, that they desire an opportunity to vote for plaintiff candidates who are financially unable to pay the filing fees, but that they will be unconstitutionally prevented from doing so because of the financial requirements of the statutes.

The parties agree, too, that the state's interests in a filing fee system are '(1) provention of overcrowded ballots, (2) assuring seriousness of candidacy, and (3) partially defraying election costs.' On this stipulated point, we take it to be a principle of statutory interpretation that, although the parties may agree as to the legislative intention or purpose and by agreement delineate what they believe the public interests may be, the views of a court of review may not be limited by the parties' stipulation. The court, we believe, is not necessarily bound by such agreement and is free to reexamine the agreed premise, seek out and ascertain the legislative intentions, and sua sponte reach the same, a similar, or an altogether different conclusion.

Plaintiffs, an noted, appeal from a summary judgment of dismissal and the court's denial of their motion for a summary judgment declaring the filing fees and pamphlet fees unconstitutional and the statutes prescribing them void. The filing fees and pamphlet fees are unconstitutional, they say, because they are not necessary to promote what is called a compelling state interest, they violate the equal protection clause and the due process clauses of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, and they contravene the freedom of expression provision of the First Amendment. We find these contentions untenable.

The statutes now under challenge cover a wide range of political activity. Fees for filing declarations of candidacy for partisan offices are prescribed as follows:

A fee of one dollar must accompany each declaration of candidacy for a precinct office without salary; a fee of ten dollars for any office with a compensation attached of one thousand dollars per annum or less; a fee equal to one percent of the annual compensation for any office with a compensation attached of more than one thousand dollars per annum.

RCW 29.18.050. Fees for certain nonpartisan offices are similarly assessed (RCW 29.21.010), and the same fee schedules prevail where nomination is by convention. RCW 29.24.070. Fees exacted for utilizing the state-distributed campaign pamphlet are likewise prescribed by statute. RCW 29.80.050.

Is it a denial of equal protection of the laws, due process of law, and freedom of speech and expression for the state to require a candidate's filing fee of 1 percent of the annual salary as a condition precedent to having one's name printed upon the ballot or to require a fee for participation as a nominee in a publicly prepared and distributed candidates' campaign pamphlet?

The validity of the 1 percent filing fee for candidates was flatly upheld by this court as being both reasonable and constitutional in a case on all fours with this one in State ex rel. Boomer v. Nichols, 50 Wash. 529, 97 P. 733 (1908). There we said, at page 530, 97 P. at page 734 The amount of the fee required is based on a per centum of the salary of the office for which the person is a candidate, instead of a fixed fee for all candidates alike, and it is this feature that is thought to render the requirement void. But we can see no reason why this is not a reasonable regulation. The fee exacted must be measured by the standard of the individual case, not by what others may be required to pay for running for another and different office.

Earlier, in passing upon this precise question, this court had sustained the filing fee statute in these words:

The right to exact a reasonable fee for the privilege of running for office may be sustained on the principle that fees in actions and proceedings in courts and for filing and recording papers are sustained, namely, that those who seek the benefit of a particular proceeding provided by law may be compelled to reimburse the state for a portion of the costs the state incurs in maintaining the instrumentalities necessary to carry into effect the particular proceeding.

State ex rel. Zent v. Nichols, 50 Wash. 508, 520, 97 P. 728, 730 (1908). On the basis of these principles, a reasonable filing fee as a condition to having the candidate's name printed on the ballot apparently has not since been questioned in the courts of this state.

Plaintiffs base their argument primarily upon the rationale of Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134, 92 S.Ct. 849, 31 L.Ed.2d 92 (1972). That case, a unanimous decision of the seven justices sitting, we think, in essence sustains the instant filing fee statute and supports the Secretary of State's position here. Bullock involved the candidates' filing fee statutes of Texas, which, we think, prima facie prescribed an exorbitant and hence unreasoanble and unconstitutional system of filing fees. In Texas, a candidate for office of county commissioner at the primary election was required to pay a fee of $1,424.60; one seeking nomination at the Democratic primary to the office of county judge was required to pay a filing fee of $6,300; and the third, a candidate seeking to be nominated as Democratic candidate for commissioner of the general land office, had to put up $1,000.

The Texas statutes in other contexts appeared to create a conglomeration of varied standards depending upon whether the office was countywide or statewide with little or no reference to the salary or other lawful emoluments. For example, the $6,300 demanded of one of the parties in Bullock represented 32 percent of the annual salary of $19,700 of the office of county judge; another office requiring a filing fee of $6,250 represented 76.6 percent of the annual salary of $8,160 for each of five other county offices; and the filing fee for county commissioner equaled 99.7 percent of the annual salary of $6,270. None of these candidates had the money with which to pay the fees of $1,424.60, $6,300 and $1,000 and were all denied places on the Democratic primary election ballot. So high were the filing fees, according to the Texas statutes, that on their face they...

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3 cases
  • Kraft v. Harris
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • August 31, 1977
    ...with the recent opinions of the Supreme Court in Sorenson v. Bellingham, 80 Wash.2d 547, 496 P.2d 512 (1972), Swanson v. Kramer, 82 Wash.2d 511, 512 P.2d 721 (1973), and Lawrence v. Issaquah, 84 Wash.2d 146, 524 P.2d 1347 In Sorenson, the court declared unconstitutional a city ordinance con......
  • McIntyre v. Whatcom County
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • July 16, 1984
    ...test or the more rigid "compelling interest" test. See Sorenson v. Bellingham, 80 Wash.2d 547, 496 P.2d 512 (1972); Swanson v. Kramer, 82 Wash.2d 511, 512 P.2d 721 (1973); Lawrence v. Issaquah, 84 Wash.2d 146, 524 P.2d 1347 (1974); Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134, 92 S.Ct. 849, 31 L.Ed.2d 9......
  • State v. Roybal
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • July 26, 1973

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