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First Amendment Library:
Andrew Ian Sutter


Margaret McIntyre, a resident of Westerville, Ohio, opposed her local school district's request for a tax levy. She expressed her opposition by preparing and distributing a handbill to persons attending a meeting concerning the levy. Some of the handbills identified her as the author, but others were signed "CONCERNED PARENTS AND TAX PAYERS." The handbills were not false, misleading, or libelous. A school official informed Mrs. McIntyre that the handbills did not conform to Ohio's election laws because they did not identify the author. Mrs. McIntyre nevertheless distributed the handbills at another meeting. The Ohio Elections Commission found that Mrs. McIntyre's conduct was unlawful and fined her $100. The local trial court reversed the Commission's decision, holding that the prohibition against anonymous handbilling was unconstitutional as it was applied to Mrs. McIntyre. The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and reinstated the fine. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court's decision. In 1960, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an author's decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60 (1960). Regulation of political speech is not permitted under the First Amendment unless the restriction is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. First Nat'l Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765 (1978). In 1989, the Court held that states have a compelling interest in preserving the integrity of their electorial process. Eu v. San Francisco City Democratic Central Comm., 489 U.S. 214 (1989). The Court had never before been asked to decide whether states could ban anonymous polictical handbilling.