Illinois’s Full-Slate Requirement for Elections Held Unconstitutional

This is the second recent case to deal with a First Amendment challenge from the 2012 election. This one involved the Libertarian Party of Illinois.

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Illinois law has what’s called a “full-slate” requirement for non-major (minor) political parties that wish to field candidates on election ballots. It requires them to field candidates for all offices on the ballot. (No other state has such a requirement, and the requirement does not apply to “established” parties.) That law was held unconstitutional last week.

Illinois’s full-slate requirement works like this: The state puts political-party affiliations next to candidates’ names on the ballot. For balloting purposes, Illinois classifies all political parties as “established” or “new.” If a political party did not receive 5% of the vote in the most recent election, the party is considered “new” and not “established.”

For a “new” party to have its party name on the ballot next to its candidates, the party must field a “full slate of candidates, one for each race in the relevant political subdivision.” So for example, if a “new” party wants its name on the ballot next to its nominee for county auditor, the party must also field candidates for circuit clerk, recorder, prosecutor, coroner, school superintendent, etc.

Okay, that wasn’t an example. It was exactly what happened to Julie Fox–the Libertarian Party’s nominee in 2012 for auditor of Kane County, Illinois, which includes the western suburbs of Chicago. She wanted to have “Libertarian” next to her name on the ballot, but the state refused because the Libertarian Party did not submit a full slate of candidates for the county-level elections in Kane County.

Fox and the Libertarian Party sued, arguing that the state’s full-slate requirement violates their First Amendment right to free association. They won, and it wasn’t even close. The Seventh Circuit found the full-slate requirement unconstitutional with “little difficulty.” The Court found that it “severely burdens the First Amendment rights of minor parties, their members, and voters.” According to the Court, minor parties must “find and recruit candidates for races they want nothing to do with” and “locate candidates for relatively obscure offices.” The Court also found that requirement burdens the rights of the candidates of minor parties to run as their party’s standard bearer.

[Fun fact: only one person (Terry Hunt) was on the general-election ballot for Kane County Auditor in 2012, the Republican Party’s nominee, and he won with 100% of the vote. He was re-elected in 2016, again as the only one on the ballot.]

The Court also found that the Libertarian Party had standing to sue because the full-slate requirement continued to violate the Party’s right to free association.

Case: Libertarian Party of Ill. v. Scholz, Nos. 16-1667 & 16-1775 (7th Cir. Sept. 22, 2017) (opinion here)

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