Illinois State Board of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party

PETITIONER:Illinois State Board of Elections
RESPONDENT:Socialist Workers Party
LOCATION:Congress

DOCKET NO.: 77-1248
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 440 US 173 (1979)
ARGUED: Nov 06, 1978
DECIDED: Feb 22, 1979

ADVOCATES:
Jeffrey D. Colman – for appellees
Michael L. Levinson – for appellant
Ronald Reosti – for appellees

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Illinois State Board of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 06, 1978 in Illinois State Board of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – February 22, 1979 in Illinois State Board of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party

Thurgood Marshall:

In the Derrick case, the Illinois State Board of Elections against the Socialist Workers Party did appear from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Under the Illinois Election Code, new political parties and independent candidates must obtain a signature of 25,000 qualified voters in order to appear on the ballot in statewide elections. However, a different standard applies in elections for offices of political subdivision of the State.

The minimum number of citizens required there is 5% of the number of persons who voted at the previous election for officers of the particular subdivision.

Application is standard to a special mayoral election in the City of Chicago produced the anomalous result that a new party or independent candidate needed substantially more signatures to gain access to the ballot, that would be needed for a ballot access in a statewide election.

Appellees, a new political party and an independent candidate for mayor of Chicago brought this action charging the discrepancy between the signature requirements.

The District Court enjoined enforcement of the 5% provision insofar as it mandated more than 25,000 signatures in city elections and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

By an opinion filed with the clerk today, we hold that restrictions on access to the ballot must share a compelling state interest.

While States have a legitimate interest in screening out frivolous candidates, Illinois had determined that the 25,000 signature requirement is sufficient to accomplish this result in a statewide election.

Department of the State Board of Elections has advanced no reason much less a compelling one why most signatures are necessary for elections in the City of Chicago which is a small political unit.

Accordingly, we find these access restrictions cannot withstand scrutiny under the limitation clause and we affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

The Chief Justice concurs under judgment.

Justice Blackmun has filed a concurring opinion.

Justices Rehnquist and Stevens have each filed opinions concurring in the judgment.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Marshall.