Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428 (1992)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 91-535. Argued March 24, 1992—Decided June 8, 1992

Petitioner, a registered Honolulu voter, filed suit against respondent state officials, claiming that Hawaii's prohibition on write-in voting violated his rights of expression and association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court ultimately granted his motion for summary judgment and injunctive relief, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the prohibition, taken as part of the State's comprehensive election scheme, does not impermissibly burden the right to vote.

Held: Hawaii's prohibition on write-in voting does not unreasonably infringe upon its citizens' rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 432-442. (a) Petitioner assumes erroneously that a law that imposes any burden on the right to vote must be subject to strict scrutiny. This Court's cases have applied a more flexible standard: A court considering a state election law challenge must weigh the character and magnitude of the asserted injury to the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights that the plaintiff seeks to vindicate against the precise interests put forward by the State as justification for the burden imposed by its rule, taking into consideration the extent to which those interests make it necessary to burden the plaintiff's rights. Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U. S. 780, 788-789. Under this standard, a regulation must be narrowly drawn to advance a state interest of compelling importance only when it subjects the voters' rights to "severe" restrictions. Norman v. Reed, 502 U. S. 279, 289. If it imposes only "reasonable, nondiscriminatory restrictions" upon those rights, the State's important regulatory interests are generally sufficient to justify the restrictions. Anderson, supra, at 788. Pp. 432-434. (b) Hawaii's write-in vote prohibition imposes a very limited burden upon voters' rights to associate politically through the vote and to have candidates of their choice placed on the ballot. Because the State's election laws provide easy access to the primary ballot until the cutoff date for the filing of nominating petitions, two months before the primary, any burden on the voters' rights is borne only by those who fail to identify their candidate of choice until shortly before the primary. An

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