APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS.
White, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Burger, C. J., and Brennan, Stewart, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, and Rehnquist, JJ., joined. Douglas, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part, post, p. 795.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
These cases began when appellants, minority political parties and their candidates, qualified voters supporting the minority party candidates, and independent unaffiliated candidates, brought four separate actions in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas against the Texas Secretary of State seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the enforcement of various sections of the Texas Election Code.
The American Party of Texas sought ballot position at the general election in 1972 for a slate of candidates for various statewide and local officers, including governor and county commissioner.*fn1 The New Party of Texas wanted ballot recognition for its candidates for the general election for governor, Congress, state representative and county sheriff. The Socialist Workers Party made similar claims with respect to its candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and United States Senator.*fn2 Laurel Dunn, a nonpartisan candidate, attempted
to run for the United States House of Representatives from the Eleventh Congressional District. In his action, he represented himself and other named independent candidates for state and local offices. Finally, Robert Hainsworth sought election as state representative from District No. 86.
In these actions, it was alleged that, by excluding appellants from the general election ballot, various provisions of the Texas Election Code infringed their First and Fourteenth Amendment right to associate for the advancement of political beliefs and invidiously discriminated against new and minority political parties, as well as independent candidates. Appellants sought to enjoin the enforcement of the challenged provisions in the forthcoming November 1972 general election. They also challenged the failure of the Texas law to require printing minority party and independent candidates on absentee ballots and the exclusion of minority parties from the benefits of the McKool-Stroud Primary Law of 1972. The individual cases involving the parties in No. 72-887 were consolidated, and a statutory three-judge District Court was convened. Following a trial, the District Court denied all relief after holding that, in their totality, the challenged provisions served a compelling state interest and did not suffocate the election process. Raza Unida Party v. Bullock, 349 F.Supp. 1272 (WD Tex. 1972). Hainsworth, appellant in No. 72-942, was
also subsequently denied relief on similar grounds. Two separate appeals were taken, and we noted probable jurisdiction. 410 U.S. 965. We affirm the judgment of the District Court in No. 72-942, and in No. 72-887, except as the latter relates to the Socialist Workers Party and Texas' absentee ballot provisions.
The State of Texas has established a detailed statutory scheme for regulating the conduct of political parties as it relates to qualifying for participation in the electoral process. Under the laws challenged in this case, four methods are provided for nominating candidates to the ballot for the general election.*fn3
Candidates of political parties whose gubernatorial candidate polled more than 200,000 votes in the last general election may be nominated by primary election only, and the nominees of these parties automatically appear on the ballot. Tex. Election Code, Art. 13.02 (1967).*fn4 Texas holds a statewide primary for these
major parties on the first Saturday in May, with a runoff primary the first Saturday in June, should no candidate garner a majority. Art. 13.03 (1967).
Candidates of parties whose candidate polled less than 200,000 votes, but more than 2% of the total vote cast for governor in the last general election may be nominated and thereby qualify for the general election ballot by primary election or nominating conventions. Art. 13.45 (1) (Supp. 1973).*fn5 The nominating conventions
are held sequentially, with the precinct conventions on the same date as the statewide primaries for the major parties (the first Saturday in May), the county conventions on the following Saturday, and the state convention on the second Saturday in June. Art. 13.47 (Supp. 1974); Art. 13.48 (1967).
Because their candidates polled less than 2% of the total gubernatorial vote in the preceding general election or they did not nominate a candidate for governor, the political parties in this litigation were required to pursue the third method for ballot qualification: precinct nominating conventions and if the required support was not evidenced at the conventions, the circulation of petitions for signatures. Art. 13.45 (2) (Supp. 1973).*fn6
Finally, unaffiliated nonpartisan or independent candidates such as Dunn and Hainsworth could qualify by filing within a fixed period a written application or petition signed by a specified percentage of the vote cast for governor in the relevant electoral district in the last general election. Arts. 13.50, 13.51 (1967).*fn7
We consider first the appeals of the political parties and their supporters. Article 13.45 (2) (Supp. 1973) of the Texas Election Code, the validity of which is at issue
here, requires that the political parties to which it applies nominate candidates through the process of precinct, county, and state conventions. The party must also evidence support by persons numbering at least 1% of the total vote cast for governor at the last preceding general election. In 1972, this number was approximately 22,000 electors. Two opportunities are offered to satisfy the 1% signature requirement. At the statutorily mandated
precinct nominating conventions, held on the first Saturday in May and the same day as the major party primary, the party must prepare a list of all participants, who must be qualified voters, along with other pertinent information. The list is to be forwarded to the Secretary of State within 20 days after the convention. If it reveals the necessary support and if the party has satisfied the other statutory requirements imposed upon all political parties, the Secretary of State will certify that the party is entitled to be placed on the general election ballot.
Should the party not obtain the requisite 1% convention participation, supplemental petitions may be circulated for signature. When these are signed by a sufficient number of qualified voters in addition to the convention lists to make a combined total of the requisite 1%, the party qualifies for the ballot. Approximately 55 days after the general primary election in May are allotted for the supplementation process. A voter who has already participated in any other party's primary election or nominating process is ineligible to sign the petition. Furthermore, each signatory must be administered and sign an oath that he is a qualified voter and has not participated in any other party's nominating or qualification proceedings. The oath must also be notarized.
The American Party of Texas was able to secure only 2,732 signatures at its precinct conventions in May 1972. By the deadline for filing the precinct lists and supplemental petitions, the total had risen to 7,828, far short of the over 22,000 required signatures. Brief ...