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First Amendment Library:
Richard S. Slowes


A Minnesota law prohibits ballot fusion, which is a practice that allows political candidates to appear on the ballot as the nominee of more than one party. While widespread in the 19th century, this practice now is prohibited in most states. These prohibitions tend to inhibit the growth of third parties by reducing their ability to ally themselves with established parties. The candidate in the Minnesota case, Andy Dawkins, was running unopposed as the nominee of the "major" Democratic-Farm-Labor party for a state representative seat. The Twin Cities Area New Party, a "minor" party under Minnesota law, wished to nominate Dawkins as its candidate for the same seat, and Dawkins was willing to appear on the ballot as a multi-party candidate. The Democratic-Farm-Labor party did not object to the New Party's nomination of Dawkins. Under the Minnesota non-fushion law, however, Dawkins was prohibited from appearing on the ballot as the nominee of the New Party. The New Party sued, but the district court upheld the Minnesota law. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Minnesota law severely burdened the New Party's associational rights and that the law was not narrowly tailored to achieve the law's stated purposes. When deciding whether a state election law violates the First Amendment, the Court is to balance the statute's burden on expression against the purposes the law is designed to serve. Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428 (1992). If the burden is significant, the statute must further a compelling state interest. If the burden is not as great, the law will be upheld if it advances an "important," though not necessarily compelling, interest.Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780 (1983).