Saturday, December 7, 2013

Illinois State Board of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party case brief

Illinois State Board of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party case brief summary
440 U.S. 173 (1979)

The district court consolidated actions in which plaintiffs, political party and voters, sought to enjoin defendant boards of elections from enforcing signature requirements. The State Board of Elections appealed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which adopted the district court's opinion permanently enjoining enforcement insofar as more signatures were required in local than in statewide elections.

Under the Illinois Election Code, the standard of signatures required for new political parties and independent candidates to appear on the ballot was different for candidates in statewide elections than for elections for offices of political subdivisions. This produced the result that in the city of Chicago, a new party or an independent candidate needed substantially more signatures to gain access to the ballot than a similarly situated party or candidate for state-wide office. Plaintiffs alleged this violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

  • The Court held that the Illinois Election Code was unconstitutional because the signature requirements for independent candidates and new political parties seeking offices in Chicago were plainly not the least restrictive means of protecting the state's objectives of screening out frivolous candidates and avoiding overloaded ballots. 
  • The Illinois State Board Of Elections had advanced no reason, much less a compelling one, why the state needed a more stringent requirement for Chicago.

The judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed.

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