Washington Law Review
Constitutional Law—State May Not Require Filing Fee from Indigent Candidate as Prerequisite to Ballot Placement—Lubin v. Panish, 415 U.S. 709 (1974)
Petitioner Lubin desired to be placed on the ballot in the primary election for nomination to a position on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. He was denied the papers requisite to ballot placement, however, because he was unable to pay the filing fee, a mandatory precondition to ballot placement in California. Although California statutes permit write-in votes, they are not counted unless the write-in candidate pays the filing fee prior to the election. Seeking invalidation of the statutes, Petitioner filed suit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that he was a serious candidate who did not pay the filing fee solely because he was indigent. The superior court upheld the state's requirement, finding that the fees were reasonable, as a matter of law. The California Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court denied Petitioner's application for a writ of mandate; the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari, and reversed. Held: "[I] n the absence of reasonable alternative means of ballot access, a State may not, consistent with constitutional standards, require from an indigent candidate filing fees he cannot pay." Lubin v. Panish, 415 U.S. 709, 718 (1974). This note analyzes the Lubin decision and its probable impact upon state election laws. It is suggested that the decision will result in the use of "optional fee schemes" to qualify candidates for ballot positions. Under such schemes, nonindigents must pay filing fees and indigents must evidence voter support by such methods as submitting petitions signed by a specified percentage of voters or winning the nomination of an established political party. It is argued that this optional fee scheme should not withstand constitutional attack because the use of a filing fee as a method of candidate qualification is not reasonably related to the state's legitimate interests in regulating candidate placement on the ballot. Moreover, the scheme imposes inherently unequal burdens upon candidates seeking ballot position solely on the basis of financial ability. It is submitted that these relative burdens are not justified in light of the existence of an alternative method of candidate qualification which furthers the state's interest in limiting ballot position to "genuine" candidates who command voter support and operates without regard to the wealth of the prospective candidate, viz.: the requirement that all candidates evidence voter support.
Mary M. Schuman,
Constitutional Law—State May Not Require Filing Fee from Indigent Candidate as Prerequisite to Ballot Placement—Lubin v. Panish, 415 U.S. 709 (1974),
50 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol50/iss1/11