* This appellate court ruling in the 7th US Circuit is pretty self-explanatory…
Illinois law prevents political parties from fielding candidates on election ballots unless they meet certain conditions. One condition is known as the full-slate requirement: If a party hasn’t attained sufficient voter support in past elections, it must field candidates for all offices on the ballot in the political subdivision in which it wishes to compete. So in the 2012 election, the Libertarian Party of Illinois could field a candidate for county auditor in Kane County only if it also proposed candidates for circuit clerk, recorder, prosecutor, coroner, board chairman, and school superintendent.
In this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Libertarian Party argues that the full-slate requirement violates its right of political association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district judge agreed and entered judgment invalidating the requirement. On appeal Illinois contends that the full-slate requirement is justified by its interests in political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion.
We affirm the district court. The core of the fundamental right to political association is the right to band together in a political party to advance a policy agenda by electing the party’s members to office. That necessarily includes the party’s right to access the ballot and its candidates’ right to appear on the ballot under the party banner. For a minor party and its nominees, Illinois’s full-slate requirement extinguishes those rights unless the party fields candidates in races it may want no part of. This is a severe burden on fundamental constitutional rights, and Illinois hasn’t offered a compelling state interest to justify it. Indeed, by incentivizing minor parties to manufacture frivolous candidacies as a means to an end, the full-slate requirement actually thwarts the interests Illinois invokes.
Hat tip: Chicago Law Bulletin.