Anderson v. Celebrezze - 460 U.S. 780 (1983)
U.S. Supreme Court
Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780 (1983)
Anderson v. Celebrezze
Argued December 6, 1982
Decided April 19, 1983
460 U.S. 780
An Ohio statute requires an independent candidate for President to file a statement of candidacy and nominating petition in March in order to appear on the general election ballot in November. On April 24, 1980, petitioner Anderson announced that he was an independent candidate for President. Thereafter, on May 16, 1980, his supporters tendered a nominating petition and statement of candidacy, satisfying the substantive requirements for ballot eligibility, to respondent Ohio Secretary of State. Respondent refused to accept the documents because they had not been filed within the time required by the Ohio statute. Anderson and petitioner voters then filed an action in Federal District Court, challenging the constitutionality of the statute. The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioners and ordered respondent to place Anderson's name on the general election ballot, holding that the statutory deadline was unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the early deadline served the State's interest in voter education by giving voters a longer opportunity to see how Presidential candidates withstand the close scrutiny of a political campaign.
Held: Ohio's early filing deadline places an unconstitutional burden on the voting and associational rights of petitioner Anderson's supporters. Pp. 460 U. S. 786-806.
(a) In resolving constitutional challenges to a State's election laws, a court must first consider the character and magnitude of the asserted injury to the rights protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments that the plaintiff seeks to vindicate. It must then identify and evaluate the interests asserted by the State to justify the burden imposed by its rule. In passing judgment, the Court must not only determine the legitimacy and strength of each of these interests, it must also consider the extent to which those interests make it necessary to burden the plaintiff's rights. Only after weighing all these factors is the court in a position to decide whether the challenged provision is unconstitutional. Pp. 460 U. S. 786-790.
(b) The Ohio filing deadline not only burdens the associational rights of independent voters and candidates, it also places a significant state-imposed restriction on a nationwide electoral process. A burden that falls unequally on independent candidates or on new or small political parties impinges, by its very nature, on associational choices protected by the First Amendment, and discriminates against those candidates and voters whose political preferences lie outside the existing political parties. And in the context of a Presidential election, state-imposed restrictions implicate a uniquely important national interest, because the President and Vice President are the only elected officials who represent all the voters in the Nation, and the impact of the votes cast in each State affects the votes cast in other States. Pp. 460 U. S. 790-795.
(c) None of the three interests that Ohio seeks to further by its early filing deadline justifies that deadline. As to the State's asserted interest in voter education, it is unrealistic in the modern world to suggest that it takes more than seven months to inform the electorate about the qualifications of a particular candidate simply because he lacks a partisan label. Moreover, it is not self-evident that the interest in voter education is served at all by the early filing deadline. The State's asserted interest in equal treatment for partisan and independent candidates is not achieved by imposing the early filing deadline on both, since, although a candidate participating in a primary election must declare his candidacy on the same date as an independent, both the burdens and benefits of the respective requirements are materially different, and the reasons for early filing for a primary candidate are inapplicable to independent candidates in the general election. And the State's asserted interest in political stability amounts to a desire to protect existing political parties from competition generated by independent candidates who have previously been affiliated with a party, an interest that conflicts with First Amendment values. The Ohio deadline does not serve any state interest "in maintaining the integrity of the various routes to the ballot" for the Presidency, because Ohio's Presidential preference primary does not serve to narrow the field for the general election. Storer v. Brown, 415 U. S. 724, distinguished. The deadline is not drawn to protect the parties from "intraparty feuding," and may actually impair the State's interest in preserving party harmony. Pp. 460 U. S. 796-806.
664 F.2d 554, reversed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 460 U. S. 806.