Libertarian Party of Illinois v. Cunningham, No. 16-1775 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Under Illinois law, a political party that has not attained sufficient votes in past elections must field candidates for all offices on the ballot in the political subdivision in which it wishes to compete. In the 2012 election, the Libertarian Party could field a candidate for Kane County auditor only if it also proposed candidates for six other offices. In its suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Party argued that the full-slate requirement violated its right of political association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Seventh Circuit agreed, rejecting an argument that the requirement is justified by its interests in political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion. The core of the fundamental right to political association is the right to band together in a political party to advance a policy agenda by electing the party’s members to office. That necessarily includes the candidates’ right to appear on the ballot under the party banner. For a minor party and its nominees, Illinois’s full-slate requirement extinguishes those rights unless the party fields candidates in races it may want no part of. This is a severe burden on fundamental constitutional rights. Illinois has not offered a compelling state interest to justify it. By incentivizing minor parties to manufacture frivolous candidacies, the full-slate requirement actually thwarts the interests Illinois invokes.