Brief Fact Summary. Margaret McIntyre (Mrs. McIntyre) distributed anonymous political information at several public meetings, expressing her opposition to a proposed tax levy. She was reported in violation of Ohio Elections Law, which required her to sign the leaflets. She appealed on the basis that the law suppressed political speech.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Anonymous political speech is still to be protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).
The evidence offered need show only a reasonable probability that the compelled disclosure of a party's contributors names will subject them to threats, harassment, or reprisals from either Government officials or private parties.View Full Point of Law
Issue. This case considers whether the freedom to publish anonymously extends to political speech.
Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) opined for the Court that the Ohio Code did not have a function integral to the election process, other than the regulation of speech. Mrs. McIntyre, in handing out her own leaflets was engaging in political expression, which is to be afforded First Amendment constitutional protection.
The Supreme Court also notes that the absence of Mrs. McIntyre’s name on her leaflets did not protect her from responsibility for their contents. Because the Election Committee held her responsible and fined Mrs. McIntyre, the anonymity was not at issue, but rather the act of distributing the speech itself.
Dissent. Justice Antonin Scalia (J. Scalia) dissented, arguing that anonymous electioneering was not necessarily a constitutional right.
Concurrence. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (J. Ginsburg) concurred noting that the State’s interest in regulating the election process could justify an identification requirement in some circumstances, but not in this case. Justice Clarence Thomas (J. Thomas) also concurred, noting that during the time of the Framers, the freedom of the press encompassed the freedom to publish anonymously, without fear of repercussion.
Discussion. The freedom to express one’s political viewpoint without fear of repercussions is a principal upon which the First Amendment on was founded. Anonymity allows a political speaker to exercise this freedom.