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WILLIAMS V. RHODES, 393 U. S. 23 (1968)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23 (1968)

Williams v. Rhodes

No. 543

Argued October 7, 1968

Decided October 15, 1968.*

393 U.S. 23


Under the Ohio election laws a new political party seeking ballot position in presidential elections must obtain petitions signed by qualified electors totaling 15% of the number of ballots cast in the last gubernatorial election, and must file these petitions early in February of the election year. These requirements and other restrictive statutory provisions virtually preclude a new party's qualifying for ballot position, and no provision exists for independent candidates doing so. The Republican and Democratic Parties may retain their ballot positions by polling 10% of the votes in the last gubernatorial election, and need not obtain signature petitions. The Ohio American Independent Party (an appellant in No. 543), was formed in January, 1968, and, during the next six months, by securing over 450,000 signatures, exceeded the 15% requirement but was denied ballot position because the February deadline had expired. The Socialist Labor Party (an appellant in No. 544), an old party with a small membership, could not meet the 15% requirement. Both Parties brought actions challenging the Ohio election laws as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge District Court held those laws unconstitutional and ruled that the Parties were entitled to write-in space, but not ballot position. The Parties appealed to this Court. The Independent Party immediately sought interlocutory relief from MR. JUSTICE STEWART, which he granted by order after a hearing at which Ohio represented that it could place the Party's name on the ballot without disrupting the election if there was not a long delay. Several days after that order, the Socialist Labor Party sought a stay which he denied because of that Party's failure to move quickly for relief, the State having represented that, at that time, the granting of relief would disrupt the election.


1. The controversy in these cases is justiciable. P. 393 U. S. 28. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 393 U. S. 24

2. State laws enacted pursuant to Art. II, § 1, of the Constitution to regulate the selection of electors must meet the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 393 U. S. 28-29.

3. Ohio's restrictive election laws, taken as a whole, are invidiously discriminatory and violate the Equal Protection Clause because they give the two old, established parties a decided advantage over new parties. Pp. 393 U. S. 30-34.

(a) The state laws here involved heavily burden the right of individuals to associate for the advancement of political beliefs and the right of qualified voters to cast their votes effectively. Pp. 393 U. S. 30-31.

(b) The State has shown no "compelling interest" justifying those burdens. Pp. 393 U. S. 31-32.

4. Under the circumstances here, Ohio must allow the Independent Party and its candidates for President and Vice President to remain on the ballot, subject to compliance with valid state laws. Ohio is not at this late date required to place the Socialist Labor Party on the ballot for the coming election. Pp. 393 U. S. 34-35.

290 F.Supp. 983, No. 543, modified; No. 544, affirmed.

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