MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
This suit is a class action brought by the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA) and some of its officers and candidates in the 1968 general election against Alabama state officials who had refused to include various NDPA candidates on the ballot for various county and state-wide offices. As the complaint sought an injunction against enforcement of Alabama statutes on federal constitutional grounds, a three-judge federal court was impaneled. 28 U. S. C. § 2281.
The District Court entered a temporary restraining order. Thereafter appellees filed their answer challenging, inter alia, the qualifications of NDPA candidates because of their failure to satisfy certain specified requirements of Alabama law. On October 11, 1968, after a hearing on the merits, the three-judge court, by a divided vote, dissolved the temporary injunction and upheld on their face and as applied all the challenged Alabama statutes.
Appellants appealed to this Court (28 U. S. C. § 1253) and on October 14 we restored the District Court's temporary restraining order, saying: "The application for restoration of temporary relief is granted pending oral argument on the application, which is set for Friday, October 18, 1968, at 9:00 a. m. The case is placed on the summary calendar."
NDPA candidates, mostly Negroes, were elected to various local offices in Etowah, Marengo, and Sumter Counties. But in Greene County the NDPA candidates for local office were left off the ballot except for absentee voters. In Greene County the only candidates appearing on the ballot were the regular Democratic Party nominees for local offices and they received between 1,699 and 1,709 votes each. It appears that NDPA candidates in Greene County would have won had they been on the ballot
On November 15 appellants filed in this Court a motion to show cause why James D. Herndon, Probate Judge, Greene County,
We have heard argument on the jurisdictional statement and on the motion to hold Judge Herndon in contempt. On the merits of the appeal, we reverse.
First. The Alabama Corrupt Practices Act requires each candidate within five days "after the announcement
The disqualification of the NDPA candidates for their alleged failure to satisfy this provision of the Alabama Act implicates Probate Judge Herndon, who was responsible for the preparation of the Greene County ballot which omitted their names.
In this case the black candidates for Greene County offices designated finance committees in February 1968 prior to their entry in the Democratic primary. Appellees contend that it was sufficient to justify Judge Herndon's omission of the names that the NDPA candidates did not file a second designation of financial committee after May 7, the date of the primary, and the date on which those candidates were nominated by the NDPA. Appellants contend that disqualification for that reason constituted discriminatory enforcement of the Corrupt Practices Act in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Since the names of the white candidates who won the May 7 primary were placed on the ballot, although they also did not file a second designation after that date, appellees clearly have the burden of justifying the denial of ballot places to the black NDPA candidates. Appellees have failed to satisfy that burden.
Alabama law requires all candidates for local office, not selected in primaries, to be nominated by mass meeting on the first Tuesday in May of the election year. Ala. Code, Tit. 17, §§ 413, 414 (1958). The certificate of nomination sent to Judge Herndon, probate judge for
On September 18 the District Court temporarily restrained the omission from the ballot of NDPA candidates for state and local office. That restraint was dissolved on October 11. Meanwhile counsel for the white Greene County candidates, who was the county solicitor, prompted Judge Herndon to file an affidavit in which he stated that to the "best of [his] knowledge and belief" the NDPA held no local mass meeting on May 7 at which nominations were made, and further that none of the six NDPA candidates "filed or offered to file in [his] office" the designation of financial committee required by the Corrupt Practices Act. Yet when his deposition was taken on December 27, the judge conceded that the mass meeting might have been held without his hearing about it and admitted knowledge that the black candidates had filed designations of financial committee in February. He did not say why in these circumstances the February filing did not suffice for the general election; the designations refer to candidacies for the general election as well as the primary election.
We deal here with Fifteenth Amendment rights which guarantee the right of people regardless of their race, color, or previous condition of servitude to cast their votes effectively and with First Amendment rights which include the right to band together for the advancement of political beliefs. Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23. While the regulation of corrupt practices in state and federal elections is an important governmental function, we refuse to accept a reading of an Act which gives such a loose meaning to words and such discretionary authority to election officials as to cause Fifteenth and First Amendment rights to be subject to disparate treatment. That risk is compounded here where the penalty is the irrevocable striking of candidates from the ballot without notice or an opportunity for contest and correction.
When the Alabama Act is construed as appellants' opponents were allowed to construe it without suffering disqualification, we conclude that appellants met the same requirements. Unequal application of the same law to different racial groups has an especially invidious connotation.
Prior to the Garrett Act, every candidate desiring to run in a primary was required to file a declaration of candidacy by March 1. Ala. Code, Tit. 17, § 348 (1958). Independents were exempt from this requirement and they were able to get on the ballot after nomination by a mass meeting held on the first Tuesday in May. Id. §§ 413, 414. As a result of the Garrett Act, an independent candidate had to decide whether to run at the same time as candidates in the primary made their determination.
The question is whether the Garrett Act is affected by § 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 439, 42 U. S. C. § 1973c (1964 ed., Supp. III), which provides that whenever States like Alabama seek to administer "any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting different from that in force or effect on November 1, 1964," the
The Garrett Act is in respects material here on all fours with Whitley v. Williams, 393 U.S. 544, in which we held that a like provision added to the Mississippi Code could not be applied until it had been approved in one of the two ways provided in § 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In the Whitley case we dealt with a new Mississippi law which, inter alia, changed the time for filing a petition as an independent candidate from 40 days before the general election to 60 days before the primary election.
We held that this new provision was subject to § 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as it was aimed "at increasing the difficulty for an independent candidate to gain a position on the general election ballot." Id., at 570. And we added that that change "might also undermine the effectiveness of voters who wish to elect independent candidates." Ibid. The increased barriers placed on independent candidates by Alabama's Garrett Act likewise bring it within the purview of § 5 of the Federal Act. The Alabama officials, therefore, acted unlawfully in disqualifying independent candidates in the 1968 election for failure to comply with the Garrett Act.
The motion to hold Judge Herndon in contempt will be disposed of in a separate opinion.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE, with whom MR. JUSTICE STEWART joins, dissenting in part.
As I understand the arguments in this case, appellees suggest that whatever reasons state officials may have given for excluding appellants from the ballot, the exclusion and the judgment below are sustainable on independent grounds, at least as to the Greene County NDPA candidates. The Corrupt Practices Act, it is said, required the filing of committee designations not only when appellants became Democratic Party candidates
"A copy of this announcement of candidacy filed with the Secretary of State and Probate Judge[s] will meet the requirements of Section 274 of Title 17, Alabama Code of 1940, as amended [Corrupt Practices Act], where the candidate himself (rather than a committee) intends to receive, disburse and report on all monies used in promoting his nomination or election." (Emphasis supplied.)
"I hereby declare myself to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination (or election) in the Primary Elections to be held on Tuesday, the 7th day of May, 1968, and on Tuesday, the 4th day of June, 1968, for the office of County Commissioner for
"If I am a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Judge of a Court of Record, I do further certify that at the time of filing this Declaration of Candidacy I am not under disbarment or suspension.
"I hereby certify and declare that I appoint myself (and hereby accept the appointment) as the sole and only person or committee to receive, expend, audit and disburse all monies contributed, donated, subscribed, or in any way furnished or raised for the purpose of aiding or promoting my nomination or election as such candidate for said office in accordance with Sections 274 and 275 of Title 17 of the Code of Alabama of 1950, as amended (Corrupt Practices Act). [Emphasis added.]