Lubin v. Panish
, a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court
in 1974, held that, absent alternative means of ballot access, states cannot require indigent candidates to pay filing fees they cannot afford. To do so violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
, as well as the rights of expression and association guaranteed by the First
and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution
Lubin, an indigent and potential candidate for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, was denied nomination papers due to his inability to pay the requisite filing fee. He was otherwise qualified for office. He brought a class action suit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court for a writ of mandate against the Secretary of State of California and the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder (Panish). Lubin contended that because no alternative method for securing ballot access was provided by the state, he and others like him were deprived of the equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Superior Court denied the writ of mandate, as did the Court of Appeal, Second District and the California Supreme Court.
In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that, "absent reasonable alternative means of ballot access," a state cannot require from an indigent candidate filing fees that he or she cannot pay. In the Court's opinion, Chief Justice Warren Earl Burger wrote, "Selection of candidates solely on the basis of ability to pay a fixed fee without providing any alternative means is not reasonably necessary to the accomplishment of the State's legitimate election interests."