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Williams v. Rhodes

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Williams v. Rhodes
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Court:U.S. Supreme Court
Text:Text of decision
State laws regulating the selection of presidential electors must meet the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Case history
Trial court:United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
Appellate court:U.S. Supreme Court
Author:Hugo L. Black
Appellate decision:October 15, 1968
Williams v. Rhodes, a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968, held that state laws regulating the selection of presidential electors must meet the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.[1]


In order for a candidate to qualify for the ballot in a presidential election, Ohio state law required the candidate's political party to obtain voter signatures totaling 15 percent of the number of ballots cast in the preceding election for governor. The American Independent Party and the Socialist Labor Party sought ballot access in Ohio for the 1968 presidential election. The former party obtained the required number of signatures but did not file its petition prior to the stated deadline. The latter party did not collect the requisite signatures. Consequently, both parties were denied placement on the ballot.[1][2]

The two parties filed separate suits in U.S. District Court against a variety of state officials, including then-Governor James Rhodes. The parties argued that the state's refusal to place them on the ballot constituted a breach of their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The cases were consolidated and the court ruled that each party must be granted write-in access to the ballot. The American Independent Party was granted an injunction, which forced the state to the add the party's candidates to the ballot while the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. The Socialist Labor Party was denied an injunction, having filed a similar request much later.[1][2]


In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state laws in dispute were "invidiously discriminatory" and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they gave "the two old, established parties a decided advantage over new parties." The Court also ruled that the challenged laws restricted the right of individuals "to associate for the advancement of political beliefs" and "to cast their votes effectively." The Court further ruled that Ohio showed no "compelling interest" to justify these restrictive practices and ordered the state to place the American Independent Party's candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency on the ballot. The Court did not require the state to place the Socialist Labor Party's candidates for the same offices on the ballot.[1][2]

See also

Portal:Third Party Ballot Access

External links