Law School Case Brief
Burson v. Freeman - 504 U.S. 191, 112 S. Ct. 1846 (1992)
Where the exercise of free speech rights conflicts with another fundamental right, the right to cast a ballot in an election free from the taint of intimidation and fraud, and there is a long history, a substantial consensus, and simple common sense show that some restricted zone around polling places is necessary to protect that fundamental right, given the conflict between these two rights, requiring solicitors to stand 100 feet from the entrances to polling places does not constitute an unconstitutional compromise.
Respondent Freeman, while the treasurer for a political campaign in Tennessee, filed an action in the Chancery Court, alleging, among other things, that Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-7-111(b), which prohibits the solicitation of votes and the display or distribution of campaign materials within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place, limited her ability to communicate with voters in violation of, inter alia, the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The court dismissed her suit, but the Supreme Court of Tennessee reversed, ruling that the State had a compelling interest in banning such activities within the polling place itself but not on the premises around the polling place. Thus, it concluded, the 100-foot limit was not narrowly tailored to protect, and was not the least restrictive means to serve, the State's interests. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the state supreme court judgment that held that §§ 2-7-111(b) and 2-19-119 violated U.S. Const. amend. I.
Did a provision of the Tennessee Code, which prohibited the solicitation of votes and the display or distribution of campaign materials within 100-feet of the entrance to a polling place on election day, violate U.S. Const. amend. I and IV?
Reviewing the state statute under the standard of strict scrutiny, theUnited States Supreme Court found the boundary restriction was constitutional in that the statutory provision constituted a constitutional compromise between two competing fundamental interests, i.e., the exercise of free speech and the right to cast a ballot in an election free from the taint of intimidation and fraud. The Court reaffirmed that statutory survival of strict scrutiny was indeed rare.
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