Williams v. Rhodes

PETITIONER: Glen A. Williams et al.
RESPONDENT: James A. Rhodes, Governor of Ohio
LOCATION: Ohio General Assembly

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 393 US 23 (1968)
ARGUED: Oct 07, 1968
DECIDED: Oct 15, 1968

Facts of the case

To be placed on the ballot in a presidential election, Ohio law required a new political party obtain voter signatures totaling 15% of the number of ballots cast in the preceding gubernatorial election. Both the American Independent Party and the Socialist Labor Party sought ballot access in Ohio for the 1968 presidential election. The American Independent Party, formed by supporters of George C. Wallace, obtained the requisite number of signatures but failed to file its petition for ballot access prior to the February 7, 1968 deadline. The Socialist Labor Party, which until 1948 had been on the ballot, failed to collect enough signatures and was also kept off the ballot. The parties filed separate suits in U.S. District Court against several state officials, including Governor James A. Rhodes, contending that being kept off the ballot violated their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The cases were consolidated, and the court ruled that each party must be given write-in access but did not require the state to print the parties' candidates' names on the ballot. The American Independent Party requested and was granted an injunction forcing the state to add the party's candidates to the ballot while the case was on appeal. The Socialist Labor Party filed a similar request, but did so much later, and was denied primarily to avoid confusion in requiring the reprinting of another set of ballots.


Did Ohio violate the parties' equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by refusing to print their candidates' names on the ballot?

Media for Williams v. Rhodes

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 07, 1968 in Williams v. Rhodes

Earl Warren:

Number 543, Glen A. Williams, et al., appellants versus James A. Rhodes et al.

Mr. Young, you may proceed with your argument.

David J. Young:

Mr. Chief Justice and members of the Court, Mr. Lopeman, may it please the Court.

At the outset I would like to introduce Mr. Stan Sikes, an attorney admitted to the bar of Alabama whose associated with me in this case.

Earl Warren:

Very well counsel.

Glad to see you Mr. Sikes.

David J. Young:

First of all, the appellants would like to express their appreciation to the Court for the dispatch and vigilance with which they have scheduled this case, the case that may very well need additional remedial relief to protect the most basic of all of our rights in society, the right to vote.

We recognized that this has been an inconvenience to the Court but we are grateful that we have scheduled the case so expeditiously.

We place this case before the Court in urging fashion because we believe that the integrity of the 1968 presidential election is at stake.

We believe that the transcript evidence before the Court amply demonstrates that plaintiff's candidate Governor Wallace has sufficient voter support in Ohio that his chances of carrying that state are very substantial.

We -- the transcript evidence shows polls that were taken and they were placed before the lower court and each of the answers to those polls was prefaced on the condition that if Governor Wallace's name appears on the ballot they would vote for him.

On the other hand, it would appear to us and from the evidence in the transcript that if the plaintiffs in this case are relegated to the federal court relief of write-in status, this Governor Wallace's name is taken off the ballot in Ohio that his supporters in that state might as well forget about those 26 electoral votes.

Thus, we appear before the Court today seeking relief that's not only essential to the protection of the equal protection of the law rights of the voters in Ohio of the candidates of the minor political parties but also a protection of the integrity of this presidential election and an order which will convince at least 452,000 voters in Ohio that they cannot be fenced out of the democratic elective process simply because their views do not agree with the views of the majority party.

Has there been any challenge to any states to the (Inaudible)?

David J. Young:

There they have not.

We tendered them to the election officials.

They did not care to review them at the time they were placed before the District Court -- lower district court, they were placed before them as the transcript indicates by Certified Public Accountant.

Now, of course he would not have verified some of the things that he couldn't verify.

The petitions that were before the lower court are not required by Ohio law to be registered voters.

Therefore, the only verification that would be necessary would be the age and the residence in the state of Ohio.

The duplications were called out.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Mr. Young, the right and I gather is only of the candidate's name, is it?

David J. Young:

That is correct.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

How is this affect or accomplish a vote for electors?

David J. Young:

Under Ohio law, we have an Ohio statute and we have that for many years that states that a vote for a presidential candidate whose name appears on the ballot is considered as a vote for the electors' pledge to him who have been certified by that candidate or party to the Secretary of State.

The order of the lower court then provided that a right hand vote for a presidential candidate would be considered as a vote for the electors certified to the Secretary of State.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And they have been certified?

David J. Young:

No, in this case have until October the 15th to accomplish that certification.

Byron R. White:

Well, on your scheme of things I take it the write-in -- does it satisfy any right by itself?

But I take it you asked for it separately.