Norman v. Reed

PETITIONER:Norman et al.
RESPONDENT:Reed et al.
LOCATION:Circuit Court of Vermilion County

DOCKET NO.: 90-1126
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Illinois

CITATION: 502 US 279 (1992)
ARGUED: Oct 07, 1991
DECIDED: Jan 14, 1992

Gregory A. Adamski – on behalf of the Respondent
Kenneth L. Gillis – on behalf of the Petitioners Cook County Electoral Board, et al
Robert E. Pincham, Jr. – on behalf of the Petitioners Barbara Norman, et al

Facts of the case


Media for Norman v. Reed

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – October 07, 1991 in Norman v. Reed

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – January 14, 1992 in Norman v. Reed

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-1126, Norman versus Reed and a companion case will be announced by Justice Souter.

David H. Souter:

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Illinois to review constitutional challenges to the Illinois law setting requirements replacing the names of candidates of the new political party on the voting ballot.

The Harold Washington Party has been an established political party in the City of Chicago since 1989.

In 1990, the petitioners in this action tried to expand the party to Cook County by preparing a list of candidates in November 1990 county elections and gathering nominating signatures from thousands of county residents.

The support, however, was geographically uneven, they collected many more signatures from the urban district of Cook County then from the County’s suburban district.

The Supreme Court of Illinois denied petitioners’ access to the Cook County ballot on two state law grounds.

First, it ruled that petitioners could not organize under the name Harold Washington Party in Cook County because there already was an established party by that designation in the City of Chicago.

Second, the court held that petitioners’ failure to gather 25,000 nominating signatures from the suburban district of Cook County has qualified their candidates for all county officers, not just those representing the suburban district.

We state the mandate of the State Supreme Court and permitted petitioners to fill rather Harold Washington Party candidates for all Cook County offices except those representing the suburban district.

We then granted certiorari to determine whether their candidates were entitled to the places on the ballot that a state order effectively gave them.

Although we affirm the portion of the State Supreme Court’s decision denying petitioners the right to fill candidates for the suburban district offices, we reverse as to all other matters considered by the State Court and we remand for consideration of one further issue on which the State Court did not rule.

The First Amendment protects the right of citizens to create and develop new political parties.

Thus, the state must justify restrictions on access of new parties to state and local ballots.

We hold that Illinois did not have sufficient grounds for keeping candidates running under the name of the Harold Washington Party off the entire Cook County ballot.

To the extent that Illinois law would keep new party candidates in one locality from ever adapting the name of an established party in another locality would unreasonably and unconstitutionality suppress the growth of any new party that could not run a statewide campaign.

Now, the state’s interest in preventing voter confusion can be served by requiring candidates to get formal permission to use the name from the established party they seek to represent.

Here, the record reveals that the Harold Washington Party established in Chicago had authorized petitioners to use the party name in Cook County.

We also hold that the state may not constitutionally require petitioners as a prerequisite to filling any candidates for county office to gather 25,000 nominating signatures from each of the County’s two electoral districts.

That rule would effectively make petitioners collect 50,000 signatures to fill their stated candidates whereas, those organizing new party solely for statewide elections would need to gather only 25,000.

Illinois does not have a good reason for asking organizations of new local parties to show twice as much populous support as organizations of statewide parties.

Thus, while the Harold Washington Party’s lack of suburban support justifies keeping its candidates off the ballot for suburban district offices is not a proper basis for disqualifying its candidates for other county offices.

We remand the case to the Supreme Court of Illinois to address an issue that it did not resolve earlier which was whether petitioners’ failure to list candidates for judicial office in Cook County disqualifies their candidates for other county officers to what has been referred to as the state’s complete slate requirement.

Justice Scalia has filed a dissenting opinion.

Justice Thomas has taken no part in the consideration and decision of the case.