Brockington v. Rhodes

PETITIONER: Brockington
RESPONDENT: Rhodes
LOCATION: 17th Judicial Circuit Green County Alabama Jury Commission

DOCKET NO.: 31
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 396 US 41 (1969)
ARGUED: Oct 22, 1969
DECIDED: Oct 22, 1969

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Brockington v. Rhodes

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 22, 1969 in Brockington v. Rhodes

Warren E. Burger:

Number 31, Brockington against Rhodes and others.

Mr. Sheerer you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

Benjamin B. Sheerer:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Case number 31 Brockington versus Rhodes today is an election case on appeal from the Ohio Supreme Court.

It’s a case that we feel as this Court has said deals with matters closed to the core of our constitutional system.

It follows a case previously decided by this Court under the title Williams versus Rhodes.

The Williams versus Rhodes case dealt with the right of third parties to attain ballot status in Ohio.

This case deals with the right of independent candidates to obtain ballot status in the State of Ohio.

We think the case itself raises two main issues.

The first issue arises in this manner.

Ohio allows independent candidates to secure ballot status through the filing of nominating petitions signed a certain number of qualified voters.

Now up to 1952, that number was 1%, that number was 1% for 60 something years.

In 1952, the amount was increased to 7%.

Now, under the 1% rule which had existed for 60 something years, there was no substantial, no disruptive interference with the election procedure by independents.

In fact, participation by independents was slight perhaps even minimal in the Ohio election process.

Potter Stewart:

Was that 1% rule applicable across the board all independent candidates for any elective office of the state?

Benjamin B. Sheerer:

Yes, sir that is my understanding.

And in fact sir the 7% is likewise --

Potter Stewart:

Likewise.

Benjamin B. Sheerer:

-- applicable across the board.

Potter Stewart:

Your client is a -- wanted to be an independent candidate for election to the House of Representatives.

Benjamin B. Sheerer:

Yes sir that’s correct, for 21 first congressional District State of Ohio and in November 1968 general election.

Now we say that given that history of no disruption, no substantial interference, no overburdening of election process, the increase, the sevenfold increase in the requirement constitutes a burden on First Amendment, freedoms, a limitation of First Amendment freedoms of association and speech and a burden on the right to cast an effective ballot, a right to participate equally in the election process.

Now, the second main issue we see arising is the barrier itself.

In our case, for example, my man, Mr. Brockington, the appellant here would have had to secure 5,974 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Now as a rule of thumb, any politician will tell you this means get 50% more.

In other words, he would have had to obtain 9,000 signatures most likely of which perhaps 6,000 would be valid in order to qualify.

Now a party candidate qualifies for the primary for being on the ballot in the primary by simply securing 100 signatures if it’s an office less than statewide, or 1,000 signatures if it’s a statewide office.

Potter Stewart:

Yes, but then, in order to appear on the ballot in November, he has to win a primary election and get a majority of the people voting on the primary.

Benjamin B. Sheerer:

That’s correct.