Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party

RESPONDENT: Twin Cities Area New Party
LOCATION: Camp Newfound Owatonna

DOCKET NO.: 95-1608
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 520 US 351 (1997)
ARGUED: Dec 04, 1996
DECIDED: Apr 28, 1997

Laurence H. Tribe - Argued the cause for the respondent
Richard S. Slowes - Argued the cause for the petitioners

Facts of the case

Under Minnesota law, candidates for political office are prohibited from appearing on more than one party's ballot. When the Twin Cities Area New Party, a chapter of the national New Party, nominated someone for state representative who was already another political party's candidate, Minnesota election officials declined its petition. When the New Party challenged Minnesota's election laws the District Court upheld their constitutionality, but was reversed by the state's Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.


Did Minnesota's anti-fusion laws, banning a candidate from appearing on more than one party's ballot, violate the association rights protected under the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 04, 1996 in Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 28, 1997 in Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party

I have the opinion of the Court to announce the No. 95-1608, Timmons versus Twin Cities Area New Party.

In this case, we consider whether Minnesota's antifusion laws, which prohibit a candidate for office from appearing on the ballot as the candidate of more than one party, violate the First and Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and we hold that they do not.

In April of 1994, a Minnesota State Representative Andy Dawkins, was running unopposed for reelection in the Democratic Farmer Labor Party's primary.

That same month, the Twin Cities Area New Party, the respondent here, a charter chapter of the National New Party also chose Dawkins as its candidate for the 1994 general election.

But local election officials refused to accept the New Party's petition nominating Dawkins, citing the State's antifusion law.

The New Party files suit in the United States District Court.

It lost there but it won in the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

And in our opinion today, we reversed the Court of Appeals.

During the late 19th century, particularly in the West and Midwest, fusion was fairly common and the Grangers, the Populist, the Greenbackers' progressives often seeded through fusion with the democrats.

At that time, political parties usually printed their own ballots.

However, the notoriously corrupt 1888 presidential election, led the States to move to the Australian ballot system.

Ballots were printed and collected at public expense, and in the years that followed many states, enacted a variety of election related reforms, including bans on fusion candidates such as the one in this case.

Today, fusion is legal only in a few states and plays a significant part only in New York.

The First Amendment protects citizen's rights to associate and form political parties, but the Constitution also permits the States to enact reasonable election related regulation.

While we agree with the New Party here, that Minnesota's fusion ban does burden to some extent, its rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

We conclude that this burden is not severe and is justified by Minnesota's important interest in ballot integrity and political stability.

The New Party remains free to nominate or endorse whomever it likes, to allow it -- to ally itself with other like-minded individuals and groups, and to spread its message to all who will listen.

And although it contends that fusion is necessary to the future of minor political parties, the Constitution doesn't require the states to remove every barrier faced by minor parties in our political system.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Ginsburg joins and in which Justice Souter joins in part.

Justice Souter has also filed a dissenting opinion.