Williams v. Rhodes/Concurrence Stewart
|Williams v. Rhodes by
United States Supreme Court
WILLIAMS v. RHODES
Argued: Oct. 7, 1968. --- Decided: Oct 15, 1968
Mr. Justice STEWART concurs in the judgment in No. 544 insofar as it denies equitable relief to the appellants.
Mr. Justice DOUGLAS.
Ohio, through an entangling web of election laws, has effectively foreclosed its presidential ballot to all but Republicans and Democrats. It has done so initially by abolishing write-in votes so as to restrict candidacy to names on the ballot;  it has eliminated all independent candidates through a requirement that nominees enjoy the endorsement of a political party;  it has defined 'political party' in such a way as to exclude virtually all but the two major parties. 
A candidate who seeks a place on the Ohio presidential ballot must first compile signatures of qualified voters who total at least 15% of those voting in the last gubernatorial election. In this election year, 1968, a candidate would need 433,100 such signatures. Moreover, he must succeed in gathering them long before the general election, since a nominating petition must be filed with the Secretary of State in February.  That is not all: having compiled those signatures, the candidate must further show that he has received the nomination of a group which qualifies as a 'political party' within the meaning of Ohio law.  It is not enough to be an independent candidate for President with wide popular support; one must trace his support to a political party. 
To qualify as a party, a group of electors must participate in the state primary, electing one of its members from each county ward or precinct to a county central committee; two of its members from each congressional district to a state central committee;  and some of its members as delegates and alternates to a national convention.  Moreover, those of its members who seek a place on the primary ballot as candidates for positions as central committeemen and national convention delegates must demonstrate that they did not vote in any other party primary during the preceding four years;  and must present petitions of endorsement on their behalf by anywhere from five to 1,000 voters who likewise failed to vote for any other party in the last preceding primary.  Thus, to qualify as a third party, a group must first erect elaborate political machinery, and then rest it upon the ranks of those who have proved both unwilling and unable to vote.
Having elected a central committee, the group has it convene a state convention attended by 500 delegates duly apportioned throughout the State according to party strength.  Delegates to the state convention then go on to choose presidential electors for certification on the November ballot, while elected delegates to the national convention go on to nominate their candidate for President.  Ohioans, to be sure, as a result of the decision below, enjoy the opportunity of writing in the man of their choice on the ballot. But in a presidential election, a vote for a candidate is only operative as a vote for the electors representing him; and where the State has prevented that candidate from presenting a slate of electors for certification, the write-in vote has no effect. Furthermore, even where operative, the write-ins are no substitute for a place on the ballot.
To force a candidate to rely on writeins is to burden him with disability. It makes it more difficult for him to get elected, and for the voters to elect him.
These barriers of party, timing, and structure are great obstacles. Taken together they render it difficult, if not impossible, for a man who disagrees with the two major parties to run for President in Ohio, to organize an opposition, and to vote a third ticket.
The selection of presidential electors is provided in Art. II, § 1, of the Constitution. It is unnecessary in this case to decide whether electors are state rather than federal officials, whether States may select them through appointment rather than by popular vote, or whether there is a constitutional right to vote for them. For in this case Ohio has already provided for them to be chosen by right to popular suffrage. Having done so, the question is whether Ohio may encumber that right with conditions of the character imposed here.
The First Amendment, made applicable to the States by reason of the Fourteenth Amendment, lies at the root of these cases. The right of association is one form of 'orderly group activity' (NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 430, 83 S.Ct. 328, 336, 9 L.Ed.2d 405), protected by the First Amendment. The right 'to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas' (NAACP v. State of Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449, 460, 78 S.Ct. 1163, 1171, 2 L.Ed.2d 1488), is one activity of that nature that has First Amendment protection. As we said in Bates v. City of Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516, 523, 80 S.Ct. 412, 416, 4 L.Ed.2d 480 'freedom of association for the purpose of advancing ideas and airing grievances is protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from invasion by the States.' And see Louisiana ex rel. Gremillion v. NAACP, 366 U.S. 293, 296, 81 S.Ct. 1333, 1335, 6 L.Ed.2d 301. At the root of the present controversy is the right to vote-a 'fundamental political right' that is 'preservative of all rights.' Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 370, 6 S.Ct. 1064, 1071, 30 L.Ed. 220. The rights of expression and assembly may be 'illusory if the right to vote is undermined.' Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 17, 84 S.Ct. 526, 535, 11 L.Ed.2d 481.
In our political life, third parties are often important channels through which political dissent is aired: 'All political ideas cannot and should not be channeled into the programs of our two major parties. History has amply proved the virtue of political activity by minority, dissident groups, which innumerable times have been in the vanguard of democratic thought and whose programs were ultimately accepted. * * * The absence of such voices would be a symptom of grave illness in our society.' Sweezy v. State of New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 250-251, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1212, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311 (opinion of Warren, C.J.).
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment permits the States to make classifications and does not require them to treat different groups uniformly. Nevertheless, it bans any 'invidious discrimination.' Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 667, 86 S.Ct. 1079, 1081, 16 L.Ed.2d 169.
That command protects voting rights and political groups (Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. 89, 85 S.Ct. 775, 13 L.Ed.2d 675), as well as economic units, racial communities, and other entities. When 'fundamental rights and liberties' are at issue (Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, supra, 383 U.S. at 670, 86 S.Ct. at 1083), a State has less leeway in making classifications than when it deals with economic matters. I would think that a State has precious little leeway in making it difficult or impossible for citizens to vote for whomsoever they please and to organize campaigns for any school of thought they may choose, whatever part of the spectrum it reflects.
Cumbersome election machinery can effectively suffocate the right of association, the promotion of political ideas and programs of political action, and the right to vote. The totality of Ohio's requirements has those effects. It is unnecessary to decide whether Ohio has an interest, 'compelling' or not, in abridging those rights, because 'the men who drafted our Bill of Rights did all the 'balancing' that was to be done in this field.' Konigsberg v. State Bar, 366 U.S. 36, 61, 81 S.Ct. 997, 1012, 6 L.Ed.2d 105 (Black, J., dissenting). Appellees would imply that 'no kind of speech is to be protected if the Government can assert an interest of sufficient weight to induce this Court to uphold its abridgment.' (Id., at 67, 81 S.Ct., at 1015.) I reject that suggestion. 
A three-judge district court held that appellants were entitled to the use of write-in ballots. Yet it refrained from ordering the Ohio American Independent Party to be placed on the ballot, relying partly on laches and partly on the presence of what it deemed to be so-called 'political' questions. 290 F.Supp. 983. First Amendment rights, the right to vote, and other 'fundamental rights and liberties' (Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, supra, 383 U.S. at 670, 86 S.Ct., at 1083) have a well-established claim to inclusion in justiciable, as distinguished from 'political,' questions; and the relief the Court grants meets the practical needs of appellees in preparing and distributing the ballots.
The Socialist Labor Party, with a lineage that goes back to the presidential contest in 1892, by 1964 was on the ballot in 16 States. Today, although it has only 108 members in Ohio, it earnestly presses its claim for recognition. Yet it started the present action so late that concededly it would now be impossible to get its name on all the ballots. The relief asked is of such a character that we properly decline to allow the federal courts to play a disruptive role in this 1968 state election. On the merits, however, the Socialist Labor Party has as strong a case as the American Independent Party, as my Brother HARLAN states and as the Court apparently agrees. It is therefore proper for us to grant it declaratory relief.
Hence I concur in today's decision; and, while my emphasis is different from the Court's, I join its opinion.
^1 Ohio Rev.Code § 3505.03 (1930 Repl.Vol.).
^2 Independent candidacy in Ohio is limited to municipal offices, Ohio Rev.Code §§ 3513.251-3513.252; county offices, Ohio Rev.Code § 3513.256; state office and federal office, excluding President, Ohio Rev.Code §§ 3513.257-3513.258.
^3 Ohio Rev.Code §§ 3505.10, 3513.05-3513.191, 3517.01 3517.04.
^4 A candidate for President must first formulate a party by gathering signatures, Ohio Rev.Code § 3517.01, which must, in turn, be presented in time for the party to participate in the state primary. Ohio Rev.Code §§ 3513.256-3513.262.
^5 Ohio Rev.Code § 3513.258.
^6 Ohio Rev.Code § 3505.10.
^7 Ohio Rev.Code §§ 3517.02-3517.04.
^8 Ohio Rev.Code § 3505.10.
^9 Ohio Rev.Code § 3513.191.
^10 Ohio Rev.Code § 3513.05.
^11 Ohio Rev.Code § 3513.11.
^12 Ohion Rev.Code § 3513.12.
^13 Bates v. City of Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516, 528, 80 S.Ct. 412, 419, 4 L.Ed.2d 480 (Black and Douglas, JJ., concurring); Smith v. People of State of California, 361 U.S. 147, 157, 80 S.Ct. 215, 220, 4 L.Ed.2d 205 (Black, J., concurring).
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).|