Moore v. Ogilvie

LOCATION: Circuit Court of Somerset County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 394 US 814 (1969)
ARGUED: Mar 27, 1969
DECIDED: May 05, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Moore v. Ogilvie

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 27, 1969 in Moore v. Ogilvie

Earl Warren:

Number 620, James L. Moore, et al., appellants versus Simon Shapiro and so forth.

Mr. Watt.

Richard F. Watt:

If the Court please.

Somewhat over 20 years ago, I appeared before this Court and argued the case of MacDougall versus Green in which an effort was being made to have declared unconstitutional a statute of the State of Illinois with regard to the right of new parties to a place on the general election ballot for statewide candidates.

In that case which was decided by this Court on October 21, 1948, a majority of the Court held in a per curiam opinion that the particular statute involved was constitutional as a reasonable exercise of the state’s power and specifically it held that it was proper for purposes of the requirements of a new party getting on the ballot that the state could require 25,000 signatures of which at there must be not less than 200 signatures from at least 50 different counties.

In the State of Illinois, there are 102 counties, and the population facts which were set out in the opinion then are substantially the same as they are now accepted the disparity between the more populous counties of Illinois and the less populous counties has somewhat increased.

We have here before this Court today virtually the same statute not on behalf of a new party but on behalf of independent candidates who sought to have themselves placed on the general election ballot as candidates for officers for the position of electors of president, vice president of the United States in the last general election.

And we are asking this Court now to reexamine MacDougall versus Green and to determine that it should be overruled.

The issue is precisely the same.

Is it proper for a state as condition of candidates getting on the ballot, who are not the candidates of one of the established political parties?

Is it permissible for the state to impose in addition to numerical standards?

Is it permissible that the state require that the numbers of voters who signify their determination to put candidates on the ballot must be distributed in a certain fashion throughout the state based upon where those voters reside?

Potter Stewart:

This is the precise statute that was before the Court in MacDougall against Green, is it not?

Richard F. Watt:

The wording is the same, Your Honor.

The only difference is that there, it was Section 10.2 of the Illinois Election Code which dealt with new parties and here it’s Section 10.3 which deals with independent candidates.

Otherwise, it's precisely the same.

Potter Stewart:

The same statutory provision?

Richard F. Watt:

That is correct.

Potter Stewart:


Richard F. Watt:

Yes, it is.

Potter Stewart:


Abe Fortas:

Well, I suppose you would agree that the answer to that question might be different depending upon the nature of the geographical distribution required so that we don't have a -- if that's so, we don't have before us merely the bowl of proposition that you have now stated but may we not also or alternatively have before us that proposition in the context of the fact that here you have such a tremendous disparity that is to say that only about 6.6% of the Illinois registered voters reside in 53 of the counties, is that right?

Richard F. Watt:

That's correct.

Abe Fortas:

So, --

Richard F. Watt:

In answer to that --

Abe Fortas:

I mean I assume that you're not saying that we have to base our decision solely on the abstraction that you put to us a moment ago.

Richard F. Watt:

I think that's correct, Your Honor.

I would say this.

In the dissent that Mr. Justice Douglas wrote in MacDougall versus Green, there is the suggestion that it might be permissible to require a distribution of signatures provided that the distribution was proportionate to the population of the geographic areas involved.

So that I suppose you could state that if 25,000 signatures were required, it would be permissible for the state at that point to say those 25,000 signatures must be distributed throughout the state in proportion to the voting population of the various counties.