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Munro v. Socialist Workers Party - 479 U.S. 189, 107 S. Ct. 533, 93 L. Ed. 2d 499, 1986 U.S. LEXIS 24, 55 U.S.L.W. 4052

Rule:

States may condition access to the general election ballot by a minor-party or independent candidate upon a showing of a modicum of support. There is surely an important state interest in requiring some preliminary showing of a significant modicum of support before printing the name of a political organization's candidate on the ballot -- the interest, if no other, in avoiding confusion, deception, and even frustration of the democratic process at the general election.

Facts:

Appellant, the Secretary of State of Washington, sought review of the judgment from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which reversed a district court's judgment in the Secretary's favor against appellees, a minor political party and its candidate, and which held that Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 29.18.110 (1985), as applied to state candidates, was unconstitutional. A minor political party candidate for a U.S. senator did not have his name placed on the general election ballot because he did not receive at least one percent of the total votes cast for that office in the primary election as required by Wash. Rev. Code § 29.18.110 (1985). The candidate and his party sued, the district court entered judgment for the Secretary, but the appellate court reversed and held that § 29.18.110 (1985) was unconstitutional for state offices.

Issue:

Did the Washington statute (§ 29.18.110) which required that a minor-party candidate for office receive at least 1% of all votes cast for that office in the State's primary election before the candidate's name will be placed on the general election ballot violate their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court reversed the appellate court's judgment. The court held that a state law could constitutionally require a minor political party candidate for state office to receive at least one percent of the votes cast in a primary election in order to have his name placed on the general election ballot. The state had an important interest in requiring a preliminary showing of some support before printing the candidate's name on the ballot in order to avoid confusion and deception. The state was not required to prove actual voter confusion or overcrowding, or that it's political process suffered some damage before the state could impose reasonable restrictions on the voting process. Because the state did not have any restrictions on placing candidate's names on the primary ballot, the restrictions on the general election ballot had a slight effect on the candidate's and others' constitutional rights of association. Thus, § 29.18.110 (1985) was constitutional.

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