Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 951608

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
Citation117 S.Ct. 1364,137 L.Ed.2d 589,520 U.S. 351
Decision Date28 April 1997
Docket Number951608
PartiesMichele L. TIMMONS, v. TWIN CITIES AREA NEW PARTY

520 U.S. 351
117 S.Ct. 1364
137 L.Ed.2d 589

Michele L. TIMMONS,

v.

TWIN CITIES AREA NEW PARTY.

No. 95-1608.
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued Dec. 4, 1996.
Decided April 28, 1997.
Syllabus *

Most States ban multiple-party, or "fusion,'' candidacies for elected office. Minnesota's laws prohibit an individual from appearing on the ballot as the candidate of more than one party. When respondent, a chapter of the national New Party, chose as its candidate for state representative an individual who was already the candidate of another political party, local election officials refused to accept the New Party's nominating petition. The Party filed suit against petitioners, Minnesota election officials, contending that the State's antifusion laws violated its associational rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court granted petitioners summary judgment, but the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the fusion ban was unconstitutional because it severely burdened the Party's associational rights and was not narrowly tailored to advance Minnesota's valid interests in avoiding intraparty discord and party splintering, maintaining a stable political system, and avoiding voter confusion.

Held: Minnesota's fusion ban does not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. ____-____.

(a) While the First Amendment protects the right of citizens to associate and to form political parties for the advancement of common political goals and ideas, Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm. v. Federal Election Comm., 518 U.S. ----, ----, 116 S.Ct. 2309, ----, 135 L.Ed.2d 795 (1996), States may enact reasonable regulations of parties, elections, and ballots to reduce election- and campaign-related disorder, Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428, 433, 112 S.Ct. 2059, 2062-2063, 119 L.Ed.2d 245. When deciding whether a state election law violates First and Fourteenth Amendment associational rights, this Court must weigh the character and magnitude of the burden the State's rule imposes on those rights against the interests the State contends justify that burden, and consider the extent to which the State's concerns make the burden necessary. Id., at 434, 112 S.Ct., at 2063. Regulations imposing severe burdens must be narrowly tailored and advance a compelling state interest. Lesser burdens, however, trigger less exacting review, and a State's important regulatory interests will usually be enough to justify reasonable, nondiscriminatory restrictions. Ibid. No bright line separates permissible election-related regulation from unconstitutional infringements on First Amendment freedoms. Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724, 730, 94 S.Ct. 1274, 1279, 39 L.Ed.2d 714. Pp. ____-____.

(b) Minnesota's fusion ban does not severely burden the New Party's associational rights. The State's laws do not restrict the ability of the Party and its members to endorse, support, or vote for anyone they like or directly limit the Party's access to the ballot. The Party's preferred candidate will still appear on the ballot, although as another party's candidate. The laws are also silent on parties' internal structure, governance, and policy-making. Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Central Comm., 489 U.S. 214, 109 S.Ct. 1013, 103 L.Ed.2d 271, and Tashjian v. Republican Party of Conn., 479 U.S. 208, 107 S.Ct. 544, 93 L.Ed.2d 514, distinguished. Instead, these provisions reduce the universe of potential candidates who may appear on the ballot as the Party's nominee and limit, slightly, the Party's ability to send a particularized message, to its candidate and to the voters, about the nature of its support for the candidate. However, ballots are designed primarily to elect candidates, not to serve as fora for political expression. See Burdick, supra, at 438, 112 S.Ct., at 2065-2066. Pp. ____-____.

(c) Because Minnesota's fusion ban does not impose a severe burden on the New Party's rights, the State is required to show, not that the ban was narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests, but that the State's asserted regulatory interests are "sufficiently weighty to justify the limitation'' on the Party's rights. Norman v. Reed, 502 U.S. 279, 288-289, 112 S.Ct. 698, 705, 116 L.Ed.2d 711. Elaborate, empirical verification of weightiness is not required. See Munro v. Socialist Workers Party, 479 U.S. 189, 195-196, 107 S.Ct. 533, 537-538, 93 L.Ed.2d 499. Here, the burden is justified by "correspondingly weighty'' valid state interests in ballot integrity and political stability. States certainly have an interest in protecting the integrity, fairness, and efficiency of their ballots and election processes as means for electing public officials. E.g., Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134, 145, 92 S.Ct. 849, 856-857, 31 L.Ed.2d 92. Minnesota fears that a candidate or party could easily exploit fusion as a way of associating his or its name with popular slogans and catchphrases, transforming the ballot from a means of choosing candidates to a billboard for political advertising. It is also concerned that fusion might enable minor parties, by nominating a major party's candidate, to bootstrap their way to major-party status in the next election and circumvent the State's nominating-petition requirement for minor parties, which is designed to ensure that only bona fide minor and third parties are granted access to the ballot. The State's strong interest in the stability of its political systems, see, e.g., Eu, supra, at 226, 109 S.Ct., at 1021-1022, does not permit it to completely insulate the two-party system from minor parties' or independent candidates' competition and influence, e.g., Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, 802, 103 S.Ct. 1564, 1577, 75 L.Ed.2d 547, and is not a paternalistic license for States to protect political parties from the consequences of their own internal disagreements, e.g., Eu, supra, at 227, 109 S.Ct., at 1022. However, it does permit the State to enact reasonable election regulations that may, in practice, favor the traditional two-party system. Minnesota's fusion ban is far less burdensome than a California law, upheld in Storer, 415 U.S., at 728, 94 S.Ct., at 1278, that denied ballot positions to any independent candidate affiliated with a party at any time during the year preceding the primary election, and it is justified by similarly weighty state interests. The Court expresses no view on the Party's policy-based arguments concerning the wisdom of fusion. Pp. ____-____.

73 F.3d 196, reversed.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which O'CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and BREYER, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined, and in Parts I and II of which SOUTER, J., joined. SOUTER, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Richard S. Slowes, St. Paul, MN, for petitioners.

Laurence H. Tribe, Cambridge, MA, for respondent.

Chief Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Most States prohibit multiple-party, or "fusion,'' candidacies for elected office. 1 The Minnesota laws challenged in this case prohibit a candidate from appearing on the ballot as the candidate of more than one party. Minn.Stat. §§204B.06, subd. 1(b) and 204B.04, subd. 2 (1994). We hold that such a prohibition does not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Respondent is a chartered chapter of the national New Party. Petitioners are Minnesota election officials. In April 1994, Minnesota State Representative Andy Dawkins was running unopposed in the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's (DFL) primary. 2 That same month, New Party members chose Dawkins as their candidate for the same office in the November 1994 general election. Neither Dawkins nor the DFL objected, and Dawkins signed the required affidavit of candidacy for the New Party. Minn.Stat. §204B.06 (1994). Minnesota, however, prohibits fusion candidacies. 3 Because Dawkins had already filed as a candidate for the DFL's nomination, local election officials refused to accept the New Party's nominating petition. 4

The New Party filed suit in United States District Court, contending that Minnesota's antifusion laws violated the Party's associational rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court granted summary judgment for the state defendants, concluding that Minnesota's fusion ban was "a valid and non-discriminatory regulation of the election process'', and noting that "issues concerning the mechanics of choosing candidates . . . are, in large part, matters of policy best left to the deliberative bodies themselves.'' Twin Cities Area New Party v. McKenna, 863 F.Supp. 988, 994 (D.Minn.1994).

The Court of Appeals reversed. Twin Cities Area New Party v. McKenna, 73 F.3d 196, 198 (C.A.8 1996). First, the court determined that Minnesota's fusion ban "unquestionably'' and "severe[ly]'' burdened the New Party's "freedom to select a standard bearer who best represents the party's ideologies and preferences'' and its right to "broaden the base of public participation in and support for [its] activities.'' Ibid. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The court then decided that Minnesota's absolute ban on multiple-party nominations was "broader than necessary to serve the State's asserted interests'' in avoiding intraparty discord and party splintering, maintaining a stable political system, and avoiding voter confusion, and that the State's remaining concerns about multiple-party nomination were "simply unjustified in this case.'' Id., at 199-200. The court noted, however, that the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit had upheld Wisconsin's similar fusion ban in Swamp v. Kennedy, 950 F.2d 383, 386 (1991) (fusion ban did not burden associational rights and, even if it did, the State's interests justified the burden), cert. denied, 505 U.S. 1204, 112 S.Ct. 2992, 120 L.Ed.2d 870 (1992). Nonetheless, the court...

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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
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    ...mechanics to convey a message.” Id. at 2347, 2351 (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 117 S.Ct. 1364, 137 L.Ed.2d 589 (1997) ). Much like the recusal provision at issue in Carrigan, the elector requirement in this case restricts wh......
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    ...associate and to form political parties for the advancement of common political goals and ideas,” Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 357, 117 S.Ct. 1364, 137 L.Ed.2d 589 (citing Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee v. Federal Election Commission, 518 U.S. 604, 61......
  • Democratic-Republican Org. of N.J. v. Guadagno, Case No. 3:12–cv–05658.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • 11 de outubro de 2012
    ...by the statutes [900 F.Supp.2d 459]the Supreme Court upheld in Jenness and, more recently, in Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 367, 117 S.Ct. 1364, 137 L.Ed.2d 589 (1997) (upholding constitutionality of “anti-fusion” law prohibiting candidates from associating with more ......
  • League of Women Voters of Florida v. Browning, No. 08-21243-CIV.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • 6 de agosto de 2008
    ...460 U.S. at 788, 103 S.Ct. 1564). Thus, "[l]esser burdens ... trigger less exacting review ...." Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 358, 117 S.Ct. 1364, 137 L.Ed.2d 589 (1997). Indeed, the Supreme Court has "`repeatedly upheld reasonable, politically neutral regulations th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
574 cases
  • Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs & Fair Competition v. Norris, No. 12–55726.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 3 de abril de 2015
    ...mechanics to convey a message.” Id. at 2347, 2351 (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 117 S.Ct. 1364, 137 L.Ed.2d 589 (1997) ). Much like the recusal provision at issue in Carrigan, the elector requirement in this case restricts wh......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Case No. 3:11–0692.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • 3 de fevereiro de 2012
    ...associate and to form political parties for the advancement of common political goals and ideas,” Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 357, 117 S.Ct. 1364, 137 L.Ed.2d 589 (citing Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee v. Federal Election Commission, 518 U.S. 604, 61......
  • Democratic-Republican Org. of N.J. v. Guadagno, Case No. 3:12–cv–05658.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • 11 de outubro de 2012
    ...by the statutes [900 F.Supp.2d 459]the Supreme Court upheld in Jenness and, more recently, in Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 367, 117 S.Ct. 1364, 137 L.Ed.2d 589 (1997) (upholding constitutionality of “anti-fusion” law prohibiting candidates from associating with more ......
  • League of Women Voters of Florida v. Browning, No. 08-21243-CIV.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • 6 de agosto de 2008
    ...460 U.S. at 788, 103 S.Ct. 1564). Thus, "[l]esser burdens ... trigger less exacting review ...." Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 358, 117 S.Ct. 1364, 137 L.Ed.2d 589 (1997). Indeed, the Supreme Court has "`repeatedly upheld reasonable, politically neutral regulations th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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