Citation. 514 U.S. 334, 115 S. Ct. 1511, 131 L. Ed. 2d 426, 1995 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Petitioner, McIntyre (Petitioner), distributed leaflets in opposition to a school tax levy. The leaflets did not specifically indicate who the author was in violation of Ohio election law. So, the Petitioner was charged with violating the Ohio code.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Political speech is protected. Laws requiring disclosure of the identity of the author of political speech are subject to strict scrutiny.
The Ohio code provides that no one shall write, print or otherwise distribute materials designed to promote the election or defeat of a candidate or issue without putting their name and residence or business address on the material. The Petitioner distributed leaflets at a school tax levy meeting that opposed the tax levy. Some of the handouts indicated that Petitioner was the author, but others did not. The Petitioner was fined $100 for violating the Ohio code.
Does the Ohio law prohibiting the distribution of anonymous campaign literature violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution)?
Yes. No form of speech is entitled to greater protection than that of Petitioner.
Ohio has not provided sufficient evidence that the identification of the author will help prevent fraud. There are less restrictive alternatives available.
Anonymous writings are not an honorable tradition of advocacy and dissent.
Concurrence. Agrees with the result, but not the reasoning. The analysis should focus on the original intent of the framers and their own actions. The prime example of anonymous political writing can be found in the original Federalist Papers that supported independence.
The value of anonymous speech has been recognized throughout history. Often an author will not sign or provide a pseudonym in order to have the idea heard before it is judged. The identity of an author can sway public opinion and reception to the idea. By not allowing anonymity, the state is suppressing speech that would otherwise occur.