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McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission

"exacting Scrutiny"

Rather than weigh the interests of the state against the rights of voters, as it had done in other cases regarding regulation of the electoral process, the Court here applied "exacting scrutiny." That is, it would "uphold the restriction only if it is narrowly tailored to serve an overriding state interest." The Court applied this strict standard because this case involved not just procedural issues, but free speech. In fact, 3599.09(A) applied to a central area of free speech: discussion of public issues.

Ohio argued that even by this standard, the statute was justified because of the importance of the state's interest in "preventing fraudulent and libelous statements and its interest in providing the electorate with relevant information." The question then was: Did this statute achieve those goals? The Court's answer was that it did not.

The identity of the author, according to the Court, was no different from any other information that might be contained in a document. In Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo (1960), the Court had decided that no one could be required to print all relevant information. In any case, the name and address of the author would add little information to a document.

Ohio already had other regulations prohibiting false statements during political campaigns. Thus, the statute in question acted primarily as an auxiliary to those regulations, and as a deterrent. Given its supporting role, and its obvious potential for use against authors of accurate and scrupulous documents, 3599.09(A) did more harm than good.

The Court rejected Ohio's argument that past decisions requiring disclosure --of the sources of corporate advertising (First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti [1978]) and of campaign funds(Buckley v. Valeo [1976])--applied here. Bellotti was inapplicable, as corporations lack individuals' First Amendment protections. As for Buckley, the Court decided that, compared to identification of a leaflet's author, "Disclosure of an expenditure and its use, without more, reveals far less information . . . even though money may `talk,' its speech is less specific, less personal and less provocative than a handbill--and as a result, when money supports an unpopular viewpoint it is less likely to precipitate retaliation."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission - Significance, Talley V. California, Regulation Of The Electoral Process, "exacting Scrutiny", . . . Or Perhaps Not