Jenness v. Fortson

PETITIONER: Jenness
RESPONDENT: Fortson
LOCATION: Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District

DOCKET NO.: 5714
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 403 US 431 (1971)
ARGUED: Mar 01, 1971
DECIDED: Jun 21, 1971

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Jenness v. Fortson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 01, 1971 in Jenness v. Fortson

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Number 5714, Jenness against Georgia.

Mr. Rindskopf you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Peter E. Rindskopf:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

This is an appeal from a three-judge federal court pursuant to 28 United States Code, Section 1253.

That court denied the appellant’s motion for preliminary and permanent injunction against the application and enforcement execution of Georgia code annotated Section 34-1010.

Section 34 of the Georgia Code is the Georgia Election Code, and I think for convenience sake, I will just refer to the individual Sections as for example, Section 1010.

The appellants in this case are the Georgia Socialist Workers Party, candidates for Governor and for two of the congressional districts in the State of Georgia.

Voters who desire to support them and the class of persons who desire an opportunity to consider persons on the ballot other than Democrats and Republicans.

Section 1010 of the Georgia Election Code provides simply that in order to get on the ballot, unless you come within stated exceptions, you must secure the signatures of 5% of the voters who were registered to vote for the office which you see at the last time, it was previously offered for election.

It is a straight 5% of the registered elector.

In the case of the lead appellant, Mrs. Jenness, the candidate for Governor of the Georgia Socialist Workers Party, 5% of the number of the registered voters of the last time the office she sought would come out to be some 88,175 signatures.

Potter Stewart:

There’s no requirement, is there Mr. Rindskopf that the signatures need to come from a specified number of counties or anything such as that?

Peter E. Rindskopf:

No Mr. Justice Stewart, we do not have any distribution problem except insofar as for example in a congressional candidate, the signatures must come from persons --

Potter Stewart:

That should come from the district?

Peter E. Rindskopf:

-- in the district.

Potter Stewart:

Or they have to come from the constituency, but the Governor was having the statewide constituency, the --

Peter E. Rindskopf:

That’s correct, anywhere in the state.

Potter Stewart:

Anywhere in the constituency?

Peter E. Rindskopf:

Yes, that’s right.

Potter Stewart:

In other words, for the gubernatorial candidate, they could’ve all come from Fulton County, for example.

Peter E. Rindskopf:

They could have all come from Fulton County, that’s correct.

Warren E. Burger:

The candidate for congressional seat wouldn’t need anything like 80,000 signatures on the petition, would he?

Peter E. Rindskopf:

No Mr. Chief Justice, in the two districts with which we are concerned, which are the congressional districts which to divide the City of Atlanta, the fourth and fifth, the numbers were 10,000 and 11,000.

And --

Harry A. Blackmun:

Mr. Rindskopf, as I remember in Williams against Rhodes, the figure was 15% of actual votes cast, am I correct on that?

Peter E. Rindskopf:

That’s correct.

15% of the vote cast.

Harry A. Blackmun:

And here it is 5% of the registered voters.

Which is the more difficult of the two provisions to meet?

Peter E. Rindskopf:

As we have attempted -- as we have shown in our brief at page 8 and page 9, in Georgia, the number of voters is generally about 50% of the number of registered voters, or it has been in the last two gubernatorial elections.