STORER V. BROWN, 415 U. S. 724 (1974)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724 (1974)

Storer v. Brown

No. 72-812

Argued November 5, 1973

Decided March 26, 1974*

415 U.S. 724


Section 6830(d) (Supp. 1974) of the California Elections Code forbids ballot position to an independent candidate for elective public office if he had a registered affiliation with a qualified political party within one year prior to the immediately preceding primary election; § 6831 (1961) requires an independent candidate's nominating papers to be signed by voters not less in number than 5% nor more than 6% of the entire vote cast in the preceding general election; § 6833 (Supp. 1974) requires all such signatures to be obtained during a 24-day period following the primary and ending 60 days prior to the general election; and § 6830(c) (Supp. 1974) requires that none of such signatures be those of persons who voted at the primary. Appellants Storer and Frommhagen were disqualified under § 6830(d) (Supp. 1974) for ballot status as independent candidates for Congress in the 1972 California elections because they were affiliated with a qualified party no more than six months prior to the primary. Appellants Hall and Tyner were disqualified for ballot status as independent candidates for President and Vice President in the same election for failure to meet petition requirements. Appellants brought actions challenging the constitutionality of the above provisions, claiming that their combined effect infringed on rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. A three-judge District Court dismissed the complaints, concluding that the statutes served a sufficiently important state interest to sustain their constitutionality.


1. Section 6830(d) (Supp. 1974) is not unconstitutional, and appellants Storer and Frommhagen (who were affiliated with a qualified party no more than six months before the primary) were properly barred from the ballot as a result of its application. Pp 415 U. S. 728-737.

(a) The provision reflects a general state policy aimed at maintaining the integrity of the various routes to the ballot, and

Page 415 U. S. 725

involves no discrimination against independents. Though an independent candidate must be clear of party affiliations for a year before the primary, a party candidate under § 6490 (Supp. 1974) of the Code must not have been registered with another party for a year before he files his declaration, which must be done not less than 83 days and not more than 113 days prior to the primary. Pp. 415 U. S. 733-734.

(b) The provision protects the direct primary process, which is an integral part of the entire election process, by refusing to recognize independent candidates who do not make early plans to leave a party and take the alternative course to the ballot; works against independent candidacies prompted by short-range political goals, pique, or a personal quarrel; is a substantial barrier to a party fielding an "independent" candidate to capture and bleed off votes in the general election that might well go to another party; and thus furthers the State's compelling interest in the stability of its political system, outweighing the interest the candidate and his supporters may have in making a late, rather than an early, decision to seek independent ballot status. Pp. 415 U. S. 734-735.

2. Further proceedings should be had in the District Court to permit additional findings concerning the extent of the burden imposed on independent candidates for President and Vice President under California law, particularly with respect to whether § 6831 (1961) and § 6833 (Supp. 1974) place an unconstitutional restriction on access by appellants Hall and Tyner to the ballot. Pp. 415 U. S. 738-746.

(a) It should be determined whether the available pool of possible signers of the nominating papers is so diminished by the disqualification of those who voted in the primary that the 5% provision, which, as applied here, apparently imposes a 325,000 signature requirement, to be satisfied in 24 days, is unduly onerous. Pp. 415 U. S. 739-740.

(b) While the District Court apparently took the view that California law disqualified anyone who voted in the primary from signing an independent's petition, whether or not the vote was confined to nonpartisan matters, it would be difficult on the record before this Court to ascertain any rational ground, let alone a compelling interest, for disqualifying nonpartisan primary voters. Pp. 415 U. S. 741-742.

(c) Once the District Court ascertains the number of signatures required in the 24-day period, along with the total pool from which they may be drawn, the court then, in determining whether,

Page 415 U. S. 726

in the context of California politics, a reasonably diligent independent candidate could be expected to satisfy the signature requirements or will only rarely succeed in securing ballot placement, should consider not only past experience, but also the relationship between the showing of support through a petition requirement and the percentage of the vote the State can reasonably expect of a candidate who achieves ballot status in the general election. Pp. 415 U. S. 742-746.

Affirmed in part, vacated and remanded in part.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 415 U. S. 755.

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