Bullock v. Carter
|Bullock v. Carter|
|Court:||U.S. Supreme Court|
|Text:||Text of decision|
|The Texas primary filing fee system, which required the payment of fees as high as $8,900, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.|
|Trial court:||United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas|
|Appellate court:||U.S. Supreme Court|
|Author:||Warren Earl Burger|
|Appellate decision:||February 24, 1972|
In order to appear on the ballot, candidates for local office in Texas primary elections were required to pay filing fees that ranged as high as $8,900. No write-in or alternative provisions were provided for gaining access to the primary ballot. Under this system, party committees estimated the total cost of the primary election and divided the cost among candidates according to its judgment of what was "just and equitable." The fees for candidates for local office tended to be higher than those for candidates for statewide office.
Carter and others brought suit against Texas Secretary of State Bullock in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, challenging the validity of these statutorily required fees. The District Court ruled the fee system invalid and enjoined its enforcement. The case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a 7-0 decision (two justices recused themselves), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Texas primary election filing fee system violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court maintained that the system fell with "unequal weight on candidates and voters according to their ability to pay the fees." Granting that a state has an interest in regulating the number of candidates who may appear on a ballot, the Court nonetheless held that the state could not "attain these objectives by arbitrary means such as those called for by Texas statute, which eliminates legitimate potential candidates ... who cannot afford the filing fee." Further, the Court argued the fees were not justifiable because they were not the only means by which primary elections could be funded.
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