McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334, 13 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court

tion; this case "involves a limitation on political expression subject to exacting scrutiny." Meyer v. Grant, 486 U. S. 414, 420 (1988).10

Indeed, as we have explained on many prior occasions, the category of speech regulated by the Ohio statute occupies the core of the protection afforded by the First Amendment:

"Discussion of public issues and debate on the qualifications of candidates are integral to the operation of the system of government established by our Constitution. The First Amendment affords the broadest protection to such political expression in order 'to assure [the] unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.' Roth v. United States, 354 U. S. 476, 484 (1957). Although First Amendment protections are not confined to 'the exposition of ideas,' Winters v. New York, 333 U. S. 507, 510 (1948), 'there is practically universal agreement that a major purpose of that Amendment was to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs, . . . of course includ[ing] discussions of candidates . . . .' Mills v. Alabama, 384 U. S. 214, 218 (1966). This no more than reflects our 'profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,' New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254, 270 (1964). In a republic where the people are sovereign, the ability of the citi-10 In Meyer, we unanimously applied strict scrutiny to invalidate an election-related law making it illegal to pay petition circulators for obtaining signatures to place an initiative on the state ballot. Similarly, in Burson v. Freeman, 504 U. S. 191 (1992), although the law at issue— forbidding campaign-related speech within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place—was an election-related restriction, both the plurality and dissent applied strict scrutiny because the law was "a facially content-based restriction on political speech in a public forum." Id., at 198; see also id., at 212-213 (Kennedy, J., concurring); id., at 217 (Stevens, J., dissenting).

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