Bellotti v. Connolly
460 U.S. 1057 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bellotti v. Connolly, 460 U.S. 1057 (1983)

Bellotti v. Connolly

Nos. 82-927, 82-936

Decided April 4, 1983

460 U.S. 1057

The appeals are dismissed for want of jurisdiction. Treating the papers whereon the appeals were taken as petitions for writs of certiorari, certiorari is denied.

JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom JUSTICE REHNQUIST and JUSTICE O'CONNOR join, dissenting from the order dismissing the appeals.

These appeals present substantial unresolved questions regarding the accommodation of competing First Amendment values: the interests of would-be candidates and voters in eligibility for the ballot, and the interests of party members in political association without undue governmental intrusion. Massachusetts law requires that a person seeking to be placed on the party primary ballot for a statewide office must be an enrolled member of that party and must file certain documents, including nominating papers signed by a specified number of voters. Mass.Gen.Laws Ann., ch. 53, §§ 9, 44, 45, and 48. The statute itself contains no other express requirements for access to the ballot, but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that these rules are "supplemented by" a rule -- the "15% rule" -- adopted by the Massachusetts Democratic Party. This rule permits an individual to run in the party primary only if he or she has received 15% of the votes on any ballot at the state party's convention to endorse candidates, which is held before the primary. According to the Massachusetts court, the 15% rule is designed to assure that primary candidates have a "modicum of support from members with substantial affiliation with the party."

Page 460 U. S. 1058

Frederick C. Langone, who wished to be a candidate in the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor in 1982, satisfied all of the requirements for ballot eligibility that were expressly set forth in the statute, including the submission of 10,000 certified signatures. Nevertheless, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts excluded him from the primary ballot because he had not obtained at least 15% of the votes cast at the party convention, as the 15% rule required. He filed suit in state court seeking an injunction requiring the Secretary to place his name on the primary ballot. The Attorney General of Massachusetts intervened as a plaintiff and filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Two questions of law were reserved and reported to the full Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which rendered its decision in favor of the Secretary's implementation of the statute.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court construed Chapter 53 to recognize the Democratic party's 15% rule because it believed that such a construction was required by the United States Constitution in order to avoid an impermissible infringement of the associational rights of party members. It noted that nomination papers may be signed by voters who are not members of the party, and that persons may vote in a party primary even if they have not enrolled in the party until immediately before they vote. Therefore, the court reasoned, additional restrictions serve the political party's

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