U.S. Supreme Court
McINTYRE v. OHIO ELECTIONS COMM'N, 514 U.S. 334 (1995)
JOSEPH McINTYRE, EXECUTOR OF ESTATE OF MARGARET McINTYRE,
PETITIONER v. OHIO ELECTIONS COMMISSION
CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF OHIO
Argued October 12, 1994
Decided April 19, 1995
After petitioner's decedent distributed leaflets purporting to express the
views of "CONCERNED PARENTS AND TAX PAYERS" opposing a proposed
school tax levy, she was fined by respondent for violating 3599.09(A) of the
Ohio Code, which prohibits the distribution of campaign literature that does
not contain the name and address of the person or campaign official issuing the
literature. The Court of Common Pleas reversed, but the Ohio Court of Appeals
reinstated the fine. In affirming, the State Supreme Court held that the
burdens 3599.09(A) imposed on voters' First Amendment rights were
"reasonable and "nondiscriminatory" and therefore valid.
Declaring that 3599.09(A) is intended to identify persons who distribute
campaign materials containing fraud, libel, or false advertising and to provide
voters with a mechanism for evaluating such materials, the court distinguished
Talley v. California,
U.S. 60, in which this Court invalidated an ordinance prohibiting all
Section 3599.09(A)'s prohibition of the distribution of anonymous campaign
literature abridges the freedom of speech in violation of the First Amendment.
(a) The freedom to publish anonymously is protected by the First
Amendment, and, as Talley indicates, extends beyond the literary realm to the
advocacy of political causes. Pp. 7-9.
(b) This Court's precedents make abundantly clear that the Ohio Supreme
Court's reasonableness standard is significantly more lenient than is
appropriate in a case of this kind. Although Talley concerned a different
limitation than 3599.09(A) and thus does not necessarily control here, the
First Amendment's protection of anonymity nevertheless applies. Section
3599.09(A) is not simply an Page II election code provision subject to the
"ordinary litigation" test set forth in Anderson v. Celebrezze,
U.S. 780, and similar cases. Rather, it is a regulation of core political
speech. Moreover, the category of documents it covers is defined by their
content – only those publications containing speech designed to influence
the voters in an election need bear the required information. See, e.g., First
Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti,
U.S. 765, 776-777. When a law burdens such speech, the Court applies
"exacting scrutiny," upholding the restriction only if it is narrowly
tailored to serve an overriding state interest. See, e.g., id., at 786. Pp.
(c) Section 3599.09(A)'s anonymous speech ban is not justified by Ohio's
asserted interests in preventing fraudulent and libelous statements and in
providing the electorate with relevant information. The claimed informational
interest is plainly insufficient to support the statute's disclosure
requirement, since the speaker's identity is no different from other components
of a document's contents that the author is free to include or exclude, and the
author's name and address add little to the reader's ability to evaluate the
document in the case of a handbill written by a private citizen unknown to the
reader. Moreover, the state interest in preventing fraud and libel (which Ohio
vindicates by means of other, more direct prohibitions) does not justify
3599.09(A)'s extremely broad prohibition of anonymous leaflets. The statute
encompasses all documents, regardless of whether they are arguably false or
misleading. Although a State might somehow demonstrate that its enforcement
interests justify a more limited identification requirement, Ohio has not met
that burden here. Pp. 14-20.
(d) This Court's opinions in Bellotti,
U.S., at 792, n. 32 – which commented in dicta on the prophylactic
effect of requiring identification of the source of corporate campaign
advertising - and Buckley v. Valeo,
U.S. 1, 75-76 – which approved mandatory disclosure of
campaign-related expenditures – do not establish the constitutionality of
3599.09(A), since neither case involved a prohibition of anonymous campaign
literature. Pp. 20-23.
67 Ohio St. 3d 391, 618 N. E. 2d 152, reversed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed
a concurring opinion. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion
concurring in the judgment. SCALIA, J., filed a
dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., joined.
[514 U.S. 334, 334]
delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented is whether an Ohio statute that prohibits the
distribution of anonymous campaign literature is a "law ... abridging the
freedom of speech" within the meaning of the First Amendment. [514 U.S.
On April 27, 1988, Margaret McIntyre distributed leaflets to persons
attending a public meeting at the Blendon Middle School in Westerville, Ohio.
At this meeting, the superintendent of schools planned to discuss an imminent
referendum on a proposed school tax levy. The leaflets expressed Mrs.
McIntyre's opposition to the levy.
There is no suggestion that the text of her message was false, misleading, or
libelous. She [ 514 U.S. 334,
336] had composed and printed it on her home computer and had
paid a professional printer to make additional copies. Some of the handbills
identified her as the author; others merely purported to express the views of
"CONCERNED PARENTS AND TAX PAYERS." Except for the help provided by
her son and a friend, who placed some of the leaflets on car windshields in the
school parking lot, Mrs. McIntyre acted independently.
While Mrs. McIntyre distributed her handbills, an official of the school
district, who supported the tax proposal, advised her that the unsigned
leaflets did not conform to the Ohio election laws. Undeterred, Mrs. McIntyre
appeared at another meeting on the next evening and handed out more of the
The proposed school levy was defeated at the next two elections, but it
finally passed on its third try in November 1988. Five months later, the same
school official filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission charging
that Mrs. McIntyre's distribution of unsigned leaflets violated 3599.09(A) of
the Ohio Code.
[ 514 U.S. 334, 337] The Commission agreed and
imposed a fine of $100.
The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas reversed. Finding that Mrs.
McIntyre did not "mislead the public nor act in a surreptitious
manner," the court concluded that the statute was unconstitutional as
applied to her conduct. App. to Pet. for Cert. A-34 to A-35. The Ohio Court of
Appeals, by a divided vote, reinstated the fine. Notwithstanding doubts about
the continuing validity of a 1922 decision of the Ohio Supreme Court upholding
the statutory predecessor of 3599.09(A), the majority considered itself bound
by that precedent. Id., at A-20 to A-21, citing State v. Babst, 104 Ohio St.
[ 514 U.S. 334, 338] 167, 135
N. E. 525 (1922). The dissenting judge thought that our intervening decision in
Talley v. California,
U.S. 60 (1960), in which we invalidated a city ordinance prohibiting all
anonymous leafletting, compelled the Ohio court to adopt a narrowing
construction of the statute to save its constitutionality. App. to Pet. for
Cert. A-30 to A-31.
The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed by a divided vote. The majority
distinguished Mrs. McIntyre's case from Talley on the ground that 3599.09(A)
"has as its purpose the identification of persons who distribute materials
containing false statements." 67 Ohio St. 3d 391, 394, 618 N. E. 2d 152,
154 (1993). The Ohio court believed that such a law should be upheld if the
burdens imposed on the First Amendment rights of voters are
"reasonable" and "nondiscriminatory." Id., at 396, 618 N.
E. 2d, at 155, quoting Anderson v. Celebrezze,
U.S. 780, 788 (1983). Under that standard, the majority concluded that the
statute was plainly valid:
"The minor requirement imposed by R.C. 3599.09 that those
persons producing campaign literature identify themselves as the source thereof
neither impacts the content of their message nor significantly burdens their
ability to have it disseminated. This burden is more than counterbalanced by
the state interest in providing the voters to whom the message is directed with
a mechanism by which they may better evaluate its validity. Moreover, the law
serves to identify those who engage in fraud, libel or false advertising. Not
only are such interests sufficient to overcome the minor burden placed upon
such persons, these interests were specifically acknowledged in [First National
Bank of Boston v.] Bellotti[,
U.S. 765 (1978),] to be regulations of the sort which would survive
constitutional scrutiny." 67 Ohio St. 3d, at 396, 618 N. E. 2d, at
[ 514 U.S. 334, 339] 155-156.
In dissent, Justice Wright argued that the statute should be tested under a
more severe standard because of its significant effect "on the ability of
individual citizens to freely express their views in writing on political
issues." Id., at 398, 618 N. E. 2d, at 156-157. He concluded that
3599.09(A) "is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest
and is, therefore, unconstitutional as applied to McIntyre." Id., at 401,
618 N. E. 2d, at 159.
Mrs. McIntyre passed away during the pendency of this litigation. Even
though the amount in controversy is only $100, petitioner, as the executor of
her estate, has pursued her claim in this Court. Our grant of certiorari, 510
U.S. ___ (1994), reflects our agreement with his appraisal of the importance of
the question presented.
Ohio maintains that the statute under review is a reasonable regulation of
the electoral process. The State does not suggest that all anonymous
publications are pernicious or that a statute totally excluding them from the
marketplace of ideas would be valid. This is a wise (albeit implicit)
concession, for the anonymity of an author is not ordinarily a sufficient
reason to exclude her work product from the protections of the First Amendment.
"Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books
have played an important role in the progress of mankind." Talley v.
U.S. 60, 64 (1960). Great works of literature have frequently been produced
by authors writing under assumed names. Despite [514
U.S. 334, 340] readers' curiosity and the public's interest in
identifying the creator of a work of art, an author generally is free to decide
whether or not to disclose her true identity. The decision in favor of
anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by
concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of
one's privacy as possible. Whatever the motivation may be, at least in the
field of literary endeavor, the interest in having anonymous works enter the
marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring
disclosure as a condition of entry.
Accordingly, an author's decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions
concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect
of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.
[514 U.S. 334, 341]
The freedom to publish anonymously extends beyond the literary realm. In
Talley, the Court held that the First Amendment protects the distribution of
unsigned handbills urging readers to boycott certain Los Angeles merchants who
were allegedly engaging in discriminatory employment practices.
U.S. 60 . Writing for the Court, Justice Black noted that
"[p]ersecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have
been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not
at all." Id., at 64. Justice Black recalled England's abusive press
licensing laws and seditious libel prosecutions, and he reminded us that even
the arguments favoring the ratification of the Constitution advanced in the
Federalist Papers were published under fictitious names. Id., at 64-65. On
occasion, quite apart from any threat of persecution, an advocate may believe
her ideas will be more persuasive if her readers are unaware of her identity.
Anonymity thereby provides a way for a writer who may be personally unpopular
to ensure that readers will not prejudge her message simply because they do not
like its proponent. Thus, even in the field of political rhetoric, where
"the identity of the speaker is an important component of many attempts to
persuade," City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. ___, ___ (1994) (slip op., at
13), the most effective advocates have sometimes opted for anonymity. The
specific holding in Talley related to advocacy of an economic boycott, but the
Court's reasoning embraced a respected tradition of anonymity in the advocacy
of political causes. This tradition
is perhaps best exemplified [514 U.S. 334,
342] by the secret ballot, the hard-won right to vote one's
conscience without fear of retaliation.
California had defended the Los Angeles ordinance at issue in Talley as a
law "aimed at providing a way to identify those responsible for fraud,
false advertising and libel."
U.S., at 64 . We rejected that argument because nothing in the text or
legislative history of the ordinance limited its application to those
evils. Ibid. We then made clear that
we did "not pass on the validity of an ordinance limited to prevent these
or [ 514 U.S. 334, 343] any
other supposed evils." Ibid. The Ohio statute likewise contains no
language limiting its application to fraudulent, false, or libelous statements;
to the extent, therefore, that Ohio seeks to justify 3599.09(A) as a means to
prevent the dissemination of untruths, its defense must fail for the same
reason given in Talley. As the facts of this case demonstrate, the ordinance
plainly applies even when there is no hint of falsity or libel.
Ohio's statute does, however, contain a different limitation: It applies
only to unsigned documents designed to influence voters in an election. In
contrast, the Los Angeles ordinance prohibited all anonymous handbilling
"in any place under any circumstances." Id., at 60-61. For that
reason, Ohio correctly argues that Talley does not necessarily control the
disposition of this case. We must, therefore, decide whether and to what extent
the First Amendment's protection of anonymity encompasses documents intended to
influence the electoral process.
Ohio places its principal reliance on cases such as Anderson v. Celebrezze,
U.S. 780 (1983); Storer v. Brown,
U.S. 724 (1974); and Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. ___ (1992), in which we
reviewed election code provisions governing the voting process itself. See
Anderson, supra (filing deadlines); Storer, supra (ballot access); Burdick,
supra (write-in voting); see also Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut,
U.S. 208 (1986) (eligibility of independent voters to vote in party
primaries). In those cases we refused to adopt "any `litmus-paper test'
that will separate valid from invalid restrictions." Anderson,
U.S., at 789, quoting Storer,
U.S., at 730 . Instead, we pursued an analytical process comparable to that
used by courts "in ordinary litigation": we considered the relative
interests of the State and the injured voters, and we evaluated the extent to
which the State's interests necessitated the contested restrictions. Anderson,
[514 U.S. 334, 344]
U.S., at 789 . Applying similar reasoning in this case, the Ohio Supreme
Court upheld 3599.09(A) as a "reasonable" and
"nondiscriminatory" burden on the rights of voters. 67 Ohio St. 3d
391, 396, 618 N. E. 2d 152, 155 (1993), quoting Anderson,
U.S., at 788 .
The "ordinary litigation" test does not apply here. Unlike the
statutory provisions challenged in Storer and Anderson, 3599.09(A) of the Ohio
Code does not control the mechanics of the electoral process. It is a
regulation of pure speech. Moreover, even though this provision applies
evenhandedly to advocates of differing viewpoints, it is a direct regulation of the content of
speech. Every written document covered by the statute must contain "the
name and residence or business address of the chairman, treasurer, or secretary
of the organization issuing the same, or the person who issues, makes, or is
responsible therefor." Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 3599.09(A) (1988). Furthermore,
the category of covered documents is defined by their content – only those
publications containing speech designed to influence the voters in an election
need bear the required markings.
Ibid. Consequently, we are not faced with an ordinary election restriction;
this case "involves a limitation on political expression subject to
exacting scrutiny." Meyer v. Grant,
U.S. 414, 420 (1988).10
[ 514 U.S. 334, 345]
Indeed, as we have explained on many prior occasions, the category of speech
regulated by the Ohio statute occupies the core of the protection afforded by
the First Amendment:
"Discussion of public issues and debate on the
qualifications of candidates are integral to the operation of the system of
government established by our Constitution. The First Amendment affords the
broadest protection to such political expression in order `to assure [the]
unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social
changes desired by the people.' Roth v. United States,
U.S. 476, 484 (1957). Although First Amendment protections are not confined
to `the exposition of ideas,' Winters v. New York,
U.S. 507, 510 (1948), `there is practically universal agreement that a
major purpose of that Amendment was to protect the free discussion of
governmental affairs, ... of course includ[ing] discussions of candidates . . .
.' Mills v. Alabama,
U.S. 214, 218 (1966). This no more than reflects our `profound national
commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited,
robust, and wide-open,' New York Times Co. v. Sullivan,
U.S. 254, 270 (1964). In a republic where the people are sovereign, the
ability of the citizenry to make informed choices among candidates for office
is essential, for the identities of those who [514 U.S. 334, 346] are elected will inevitably
shape the course that we follow as a nation. As the Court observed in Monitor
Patriot Co. v. Roy,
U.S. 265, 272 (1971), `it can hardly be doubted that the constitutional
guarantee has its fullest and most urgent application precisely to the conduct
of campaigns for political office.'" Buckley v. Valeo,
U.S. 1, 14-15 (1976).
Of course, core political speech need not center on a candidate for office.
The principles enunciated in Buckley extend equally to issue-based elections
such as the school-tax referendum that Mrs. McIntyre sought to influence
through her handbills. See First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti,
U.S. 765, 776-777 (1978) (speech on income-tax referendum "is at the
heart of the First Amendment's protection"). Indeed, the speech in which
Mrs. McIntyre engaged – handing out leaflets in the advocacy of a
politically controversial viewpoint – is the essence of First Amendment
expression. See International Society for Krishna Consciousness v. Lee, 505
U.S. ___ (1992); Lovell v. Griffin,
U.S. 444 (1938). That this advocacy occurred in the heat of a controversial
referendum vote only strengthens the protection afforded to Ms. McIntyre's
expression: urgent, important, and effective speech can be no less protected
than impotent speech, lest the right to speak be relegated to those instances
when it is least needed. See Terminiello v. Chicago,
U.S. 1, 4 (1949). No form of speech is entitled to greater constitutional
protection than Mrs. McIntyre's.
When a law burdens core political speech, we apply "exacting
scrutiny," and we uphold the restriction only if it is narrowly tailored
to serve an overriding state interest. See, e.g., Bellotti,
U.S., at 786 . Our precedents thus make abundantly clear that the Ohio
Supreme Court applied a significantly more lenient
[514 U.S. 334, 347] standard than is appropriate
in a case of this kind.
Nevertheless, the State argues that even under the strictest standard of
review, the disclosure requirement in 3599.09(A) is justified by two important
and legitimate state interests. Ohio judges its interest in preventing
fraudulent and libelous statements and its interest in providing the electorate
with relevant information to be sufficiently compelling to justify the
anonymous speech ban. These two interests necessarily overlap to some extent,
but it is useful to discuss them separately.
Insofar as the interest in informing the electorate means nothing more than
the provision of additional information that may either buttress or undermine
the argument in a document, we think the identity of the speaker is no
different from other components of the document's content that the author is
free to include or exclude.11 We have
already held that the State may not compel a newspaper that prints editorials
critical of a particular candidate to provide space for a reply by the
candidate. Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo,
U.S. 241 (1974). The simple interest in providing voters with additional
relevant information does not [514 U.S. 334,
348] justify a state requirement that a writer make statements
or disclosures she would otherwise omit. Moreover, in the case of a handbill
written by a private citizen who is not known to the recipient, the name and
address of the author adds little, if anything, to the reader's ability to
evaluate the document's message. Thus, Ohio's informational interest is plainly
insufficient to support the constitutionality of its disclosure requirement.
The state interest in preventing fraud and libel stands on a different
footing. We agree with Ohio's submission that this interest carries special
weight during election campaigns when false statements, if credited, may have
serious adverse consequences for the public at large. Ohio does not, however,
rely solely on 3599.09(A) to protect that interest. Its Election Code includes
detailed and specific prohibitions against making or disseminating false
statements during political campaigns. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 3599.09.1(B),
3599.09.2(B) (1988). These regulations apply both to candidate elections and to
issue-driven ballot measures. Thus,
Ohio's prohibition [514 U.S. 334,
[514 U.S. 334, 350] of
anonymous leaflets plainly is not its principal weapon against fraud. Rather, it serves as an aid to enforcement of
the specific prohibitions and as a deterrent to the making of false statements
by unscrupulous prevaricators. Although these ancillary benefits are assuredly
legitimate, we are not persuaded that they justify 3599.09(A)'s extremely broad
As this case demonstrates, the prohibition encompasses documents that are
not even arguably false or misleading. It applies not only to the activities of
candidates and their organized supporters, but also to individuals acting
independently and using only their own modest resources. It applies not only to elections of public
[514 U.S. 334, 351] officers,
but also to ballot issues that present neither a substantial risk of libel nor
any potential appearance of corrupt advantage. It applies not only to leaflets distributed on
the eve of an election, when the opportunity for reply is limited, but also to
those distributed months in advance.
It applies no matter what the [ 514 U.S. 334,
352] character or strength of the author's interest in
anonymity. Moreover, as this case also demonstrates, the absence of the
author's name on a document does not necessarily protect either that person or
a distributor of a forbidden document from being held responsible for
compliance with the election code. Nor has the State explained why it can more
easily enforce the direct bans on disseminating false documents against
anonymous authors and distributors than against wrongdoers who might use false
names and addresses in an attempt to avoid detection. We recognize that a
State's enforcement interest might justify a more limited identification
requirement, but Ohio has shown scant cause for inhibiting the leafletting at
Finally, Ohio vigorously argues that our opinions in First Nat. Bank of
Boston v. Bellotti,
U.S. 765 (1978), and Buckley v. Valeo,
U.S. 1 (1976), amply support the constitutionality of its disclosure
requirement. Neither case is controlling: the former concerned the scope of
First Amendment protection afforded to corporations; the relevant portion of
the latter concerned mandatory disclosure of campaign-related expenditures.
Neither case involved a prohibition of anonymous campaign literature.
In Bellotti, we reversed a judgment of the Supreme Judicial Court of
Massachusetts sustaining a state law [514 U.S.
334, 353] that prohibited corporate expenditures designed to
influence the vote on referendum proposals.
U.S. 765 . The Massachusetts court had held that the First Amendment
protects corporate speech only if its message pertains directly to the business
interests of the corporation. Id., at 771-772. Consistently with our holding
today, we noted that the "inherent worth of the speech in terms of its
capacity for informing the public does not depend upon the identity of its
source, whether corporation, association, union, or individual." Id., at
777. We also made it perfectly clear that we were not deciding whether the
First Amendment's protection of corporate speech is coextensive with the
protection it affords to individuals. Accordingly, although we commented in dicta on
the prophylactic effect of requiring identification of the source of corporate
advertising, that footnote did not
necessarily apply to independent communications by an individual like Mrs.
McIntyre. [514 U.S. 334, 354]
Our reference in the Bellotti footnote to the "prophylactic
effect" of disclosure requirements cited a portion of our earlier opinion
in Buckley, in which we stressed the importance of providing "the
electorate with information `as to where political campaign money comes from
and how it is spent by the candidate.'"
U.S., at 66 . We observed that the "sources of a candidate's financial
support also alert the voter to the interests to which a candidate is most
likely to be responsive and thus facilitate predictions of future performance
in office." Id., at 67. Those comments concerned contributions to the
candidate or expenditures authorized by the candidate or his responsible agent.
They had no reference to the kind of independent activity pursued by Mrs.
McIntyre. Required disclosures about the level of financial support a candidate
has received from various sources are supported by an interest in avoiding the
appearance of corruption that has no application to this case.
True, in another portion of the Buckley opinion we expressed approval of a
requirement that even "independent expenditures" in excess of a
threshold level be reported to the Federal Election Commission. Id., at 75-76.
But that requirement entailed nothing more than an identification to the
Commission of the amount and use of money expended in support of a candidate.
See id., at 157-159, 160 (reproducing relevant portions of the
statute ). Though such mandatory
reporting [514 U.S. 334, 355]
undeniably impedes protected First Amendment activity, the intrusion is a far
cry from compelled self-identification on all election-related writings. A
written election-related document – particularly a leaflet – is often
a personally crafted statement of a political viewpoint. Mrs. McIntyre's
handbills surely fit that description. As such, identification of the author
against her will is particularly intrusive; it reveals unmistakably the content
of her thoughts on a controversial issue. Disclosure of an expenditure and its
use, without more, reveals far less information. It may be information that a
person prefers to keep secret, and undoubtedly it often gives away something
about the spender's political views. Nonetheless, even though money may
"talk," its speech is less specific, less personal, and less
provocative than a handbill - and as a result, when money supports an unpopular
viewpoint it is less likely to precipitate retaliation.
Not only is the Ohio statute's infringement on speech more intrusive than
the Buckley disclosure requirement, but it rests on different and less powerful
state interests. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, at issue in
Buckley, regulates only candidate elections, not referenda or other issue-based
ballot measures; and we construed "independent expenditures" to mean
only those expenditures that "expressly advocate the election or defeat of
a clearly identified candidate." Id., at 80. In candidate elections, the
Government can identify a compelling state interest in avoiding the corruption
that might result from campaign expenditures. Disclosure of expenditures
lessens the risk that individuals will spend money to support a candidate as a
quid pro quo for [514 U.S. 334,
356] special treatment after the candidate is in office.
Curriers of favor will be deterred by the knowledge that all expenditures will
be scrutinized by the Federal Election Commission and by the public for just
this sort of abuse.20 Moreover, the federal Act contains numerous legitimate
disclosure requirements for campaign organizations; the similar requirements
for independent expenditures serve to ensure that a campaign organization will
not seek to evade disclosure by routing its expenditures through individual
supporters. See Buckley,
U.S., at 76. In short, although Buckley may permit a more narrowly drawn
statute, it surely is not authority for upholding Ohio's open-ended
Under our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious,
fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent.
Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. See generally J. S.
Mill, On Liberty, in On Liberty and Considerations on Representative
Government 1, 3-4 (R. McCallum ed. [514 U.S.
334, 357] 1947). It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the
Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular
individuals from retaliation – and their ideas from suppression – at
the hand of an intolerant society. The right to remain anonymous may be abused
when it shields fraudulent conduct. But political speech by its nature will
sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords
greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.
See Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630-31 (1919) (Holmes, J.,
dissenting). Ohio has not shown that its interest in preventing the misuse of
anonymous election-related speech justifies a prohibition of all uses of that
speech. The State may, and does, punish fraud directly. But it cannot seek to
punish fraud indirectly by indiscriminately outlawing a category of speech,
based on its content, with no necessary relationship to the danger sought to be
prevented. One would be hard pressed to think of a better example of the
pitfalls of Ohio's blunderbuss approach than the facts of the case before us.
The judgment of the Ohio Supreme Court is reversed.
It is so ordered.
 The term "liberty" in the Fourteenth
Amendment to the Constitution makes the First Amendment applicable to the
States. The Fourteenth Amendment reads, in relevant part: "No State shall
... deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of
law ... ." U.S. Const., Amdt. 14, 1. Referring to that Clause in his
separate opinion in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927), Justice
Brandeis stated that "all fundamental rights comprised within the term
liberty are protected by the Federal Constitution from invasion by the States.
The right of free speech, the right to teach and the right of assembly are, of
course, fundamental rights." Id., at 373 (Brandeis, J., concurring).
Although the text of the First Amendment provides only that "Congress
shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech ...," Justice
Brandeis' view has been embedded in our law ever since. See First Nat. Bank of
Boston v. Bellotti,
U.S. 765, 779 -780 (1978); see also Stevens, The Bill of Rights: A Century
of Progress, 59 U. Chi. L. Rev. 13, 20, 25-26 (1992).
 The following is one of Mrs. McIntyre's leaflets, in
its original typeface:
ISSUE 19 SCHOOL TAX LEVY
Last election Westerville Schools, asked us to vote yes for new buildings
and expansions programs.
We gave them what they asked. We knew there was crowded conditions and new
growth in the district.
Now we find out there is a 4 million dollar deficit – WHY?
We are told the 3 middle schools must be split because of over-crowding,
and yet we are told 3 schools are being closed – WHY?
A magnet school is not a full operating school, but a specials school.
Residents were asked to work on a 20 member commission to help formulate the
For 4 weeks they worked long and hard and came up with a very workable plan.
Their plan was totally disregarded – WHY?
WASTE of tax payers dollars must be stopped.
Our children's education and welfare must come first.
WASTE CAN NO LONGER BE TOLERATED.
PLEASE VOTE NO
 Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 3599.09(A) (1988) provides:
"No person shall write, print, post, or distribute, or
cause to be written, printed, posted, or distributed, a notice, placard,
dodger, advertisement, sample ballot, or any other form of general publication
which is designed to promote the nomination or election or defeat of a
candidate, or to promote the adoption or defeat of any issue, or to influence
the voters in any election, or make an expenditure for the purpose of financing
political communications through newspapers, magazines, outdoor advertising
facilities, direct mailings, or other similar types of general public political
advertising, or through flyers, handbills, or other nonperiodical printed
matter, unless there appears on such form of publication in a conspicuous place
or is contained within said statement the name and residence or business
address of the chairman, treasurer, or secretary of the organization issuing
the same, or the person who issues, makes, or is responsible therefor. The
disclaimer `paid political advertisement' is not sufficient to meet the
requirements of this division. When such publication is issued by the regularly
constituted central or executive committee of a political party, organized as
provided [514 U.S. 334, 337] in
Chapter 3517. of the Revised Code, it shall be sufficiently identified if it
bears the name of the committee and its chairman or treasurer. No person, firm,
or corporation shall print or reproduce any notice, placard, dodger,
advertisement, sample ballot, or any other form of publication in violation of
this section. This section does not apply to the transmittal of personal
correspondence that is not reproduced by machine for general distribution.
"The secretary of state may, by rule, exempt, from the requirements of
this division, printed matter and certain other kinds of printed communications
such as campaign buttons, balloons, pencils, or like items, the size or nature
of which makes it unreasonable to add an identification or disclaimer. The
disclaimer or identification, when paid for by a campaign committee, shall be
identified by the words `paid for by' followed by the name and address of the
campaign committee and the appropriate officer of the committee, identified by
name and title."
Section 3599.09(B) contains a comparable prohibition against unidentified
communications uttered over the broadcasting facilities of any radio or
television station. No question concerning that provision is raised in this
case. Our opinion, therefore, discusses only written communications and,
particularly, leaflets of the kind Mrs. McIntyre distributed. Cf. Turner
Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U.S. ___, ___-___ (1994) (slip op., at
___-___) (discussing application of First Amendment principles to regulation of
television and radio).
The complaint against Mrs. McIntyre also alleged violations of two other
provisions of the Ohio Code, but those charges were dismissed and are not
before this Court.
 American names such as Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne
Clemens) and O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) come readily to mind. Benjamin
[514 U.S. 334, 350] Franklin
employed numerous different pseudonyms. See 2 W. C. Bruce, Benjamin Franklin
Self-Revealed: A Biographical and Critical Study Based Mainly on His Own
Writings, ch. 5 (2d ed. 1923). Distinguished French authors such as Voltaire
(Francois Marie Arouet) and George Sand (Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin), and
British authors such as George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Charles Lamb (sometimes
wrote as "Elia"), and Charles Dickens (sometimes wrote as
"Boz"), also published under assumed names. Indeed, some believe the
works of Shakespeare were actually written by the Earl of Oxford rather than by
William Shaksper of Stratford-on-Avon. See C. Ogburn, The Mysterious William
Shakespeare: The Myth & the Reality (2d ed. 1992); but see S. Schoenbaum,
Shakespeare's Lives (2d ed. 1991) (adhering to the traditional view that
Shaksper was in fact the author). See also Stevens, The Shakespeare Canon of
Statutory Construction, 140 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1373 (1992) (commenting on the
 Though such a requirement might provide assistance
to critics in evaluating the quality and significance of the writing, it is not
indispensable. To draw an analogy from a nonliterary context, the now-pervasive
practice of grading law school examination papers "blindly" (i.e.,
under a system in which the professor does not know whose paper she is grading)
indicates that such evaluations are possible - indeed, perhaps more reliable
– when any bias associated with the author's identity is prescinded.
 That tradition is most famously embodied in the
Federalist Papers, authored by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay,
but signed "Publius." Publius's opponents, the Anti-Federalists, also
tended to publish under pseudonyms: prominent among them were "Cato,"
believed to be New York Governor George Clinton; "Centinel," probably
Samuel Bryan or his father, Pennsylvania judge [
514 U.S. 334, 342] and legislator George Bryan; "The
Federal Farmer," who may have been Richard Henry Lee, a Virginia member of
the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence; and
"Brutus," who may have been Robert Yates, a New York Supreme Court
justice who walked out on the Constitutional Convention. 2 H. Storing, ed., The
Complete Anti-Federalist (1981). A forerunner of all of these writers was the
pre-Revolutionary War English pamphleteer "Junius," whose true
identity remains a mystery. See J. M. Faragher, ed., The Encyclopedia of
Colonial and Revolutionary America 220 (1990) (positing that "Junius"
may have been Sir Phillip Francis). The "Letters of Junius" were
"widely reprinted in colonial newspapers and lent considerable support to
the revolutionary cause." Powell v. McCormack,
U.S. 486, 531, n. 60 (1969).
 In his concurring opinion, Justice Harlan added
"Here the State says that this ordinance is aimed at the
prevention of `fraud, deceit, false advertising, negligent use of words,
obscenity, and libel,' in that it will aid in the detection of those
responsible for spreading material of that character. But the ordinance is not
so limited, and I think it will not do for the State simply to say that the
circulation of all anonymous handbills must be suppressed in order to identify
the distributors of those that may be of an obnoxious character. In the absence
of a more substantial showing as to Los Angeles' actual experience with the
distribution of obnoxious handbills, such a generality is for me too remote to
furnish a constitutionally acceptable justification for the deterrent effect on
free speech which this all-embracing ordinance is likely to have." Talley
U.S. 60, 66-67 (1960) (footnote omitted).
 Arguably, the disclosure requirement places a more
significant burden on advocates of unpopular causes than on defenders of the
status quo. For purposes of our analysis, however, we assume the statute
evenhandedly burdens all speakers who have a legitimate interest in remaining
 Covered documents are those "designed to
promote the nomination or election or defeat of a candidate, or to promote the
adoption or defeat of any issue, or to influence the voters in any election ...
." Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 3599.09(A) (1988).
 In Meyer, we unanimously applied strict scrutiny to
invalidate an election-related law making it illegal to pay petition
circulators for obtaining signatures to place an initiative on the state
ballot. [514 U.S. 334, 345]
U.S. 414 . Similarly, in Burson v. Freeman, 504 U.S. ___ (1992), although
the law at issue – forbidding campaign-related speech within 100 feet of
the entrance to a polling place – was an election-related restriction,
both the plurality and dissent applied strict scrutiny because the law was
"a facially content-based restriction on political speech in a public
forum." Id., at ___ (slip op., at 6); see also id., at ___ (slip op., at
3) (KENNEDY, J., concurring); id., at ___ (slip op., at
1) (STEVENS, J., dissenting).
 "Of course, the identity of the source is
helpful in evaluating ideas. But `the best test of truth is the power of the
thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market' (Abrams v.
United States, [250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J., dissenting)]). Don't
underestimate the common man. People are intelligent enough to evaluate the
source of an anonymous writing. They can see it is anonymous. They know it is
anonymous. They can evaluate its anonymity along with its message, as long as
they are permitted, as they must be, to read that message. And then, once they
have done so, it is for them to decide what is `responsible', what is valuable,
and what is truth." New York v. Duryea, 76 Misc. 2d 948, 966-967, 351 N.
Y. S. 2d 978, 996 (1974) (striking down similar New York statute as overbroad).
 Section 3599.09.1(B) provides:
- "No person, during the course of any campaign for nomination or
election to public office or office of a political party, by means of campaign
materials, including sample ballots, an advertisement on radio or television or
in a newspaper or periodical, a public speech, press release, or otherwise,
shall knowingly and with intent to affect the outcome of such campaign do any
of the following:
- "(1) Use the title of an office not currently held by a candidate in a
manner that implies that the candidate does currently hold that office or use
the term `re-elect' when the candidate has never been elected at a primary,
general, or special election to the office for which he is a candidate;
"(2) Make a false statement concerning the formal schooling or
training completed or attempted by a candidate; a degree, diploma, certificate,
scholarship, grant, award, prize, or honor received, earned, or held by a
candidate; or the period of time during which a candidate attended any school,
college, community technical school, or institution;
[ 514 U.S. 334, 349]
- "(3) Make a false statement concerning the professional, occupational,
or vocational licenses held by a candidate, or concerning any position the
candidate held for which he received a salary or wages;
- "(4) Make a false statement that a candidate or public official has
been indicted or convicted of a theft offense, extortion, or other crime
involving financial corruption or moral turpitude;
- "(5) Make a statement that a candidate has been indicted for any crime
or has been the subject of a finding by the Ohio elections commission without
disclosing the outcome of any legal proceedings resulting from the indictment
- "(6) Make a false statement that a candidate or official has a record
of treatment or confinement for mental disorder;
- "(7) Make a false statement that a candidate or official has been
subjected to military discipline for criminal misconduct or dishonorably
discharged from the armed services;
- "(8) Falsely identify the source of a statement, issue statements
under the name of another person without authorization, or falsely state the
endorsement of or opposition to a candidate by a person or publication;
- "(9) Make a false statement concerning the voting record of a
candidate or public official;
- "(10) Post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a
false statement, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard
of whether it was false or not, concerning a candidate that is designed to
promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate. As used in this
section, `voting record' means the recorded `yes' or `no' vote on a bill,
ordinance, resolution, motion, amendment, or confirmation." Ohio Rev. Code
Ann. 3599.09.1(B) (1988).
Section 3599.09.2(B) provides:
- "No person, during the course of any campaign in advocacy of or in
opposition to the adoption of any ballot proposition or issue, by means of
campaign material, including sample ballots, an advertisement on radio or
television or in a newspaper or periodical, a public speech, a press release,
or otherwise, shall knowingly and with intent to affect the outcome of such
campaign do any of the following:
- "(1) Falsely identify the source of a statement, issue statements
under the name of another person without authorization, or falsely state the
endorsement of or opposition to a ballot proposition or issue by a person or
"(2) Post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate, a
false statement, either knowing the same to be false or acting with reckless
disregard of whether it was false or not, that is designed to promote the
adoption or defeat of any ballot proposition or issue." Ohio
[514 U.S. 334, 350] Rev. Code
Ann. 3599.09.2(B) (1988).
We need not, of course, evaluate the constitutionality of these provisions.
We quote them merely to emphasize that Ohio has addressed directly the problem
of election fraud. To the extent the anonymity ban indirectly seeks to
vindicate the same goals, it is merely a supplement to the above provisions.
 The same can be said with regard to
"libel," as many of the above-quoted election code provisions
prohibit false statements about candidates. To the extent those provisions may
be underinclusive, Ohio courts also enforce the common-law tort of defamation.
See, e.g., Varanese v. Gall, 35 Ohio St. 3d 78, 518 N. E. 2d 1177 (1988)
(applying the standard of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan,
U.S. 254 (1964), to an Ohio public official's state-law libel claim arising
from an election-related advertisement). Like other forms of election fraud,
then, Ohio directly attacks the problem of election-related libel; to the
extent that the anonymity ban serves the same interest, it is merely a
 We stressed the importance of this distinction in
Buckley v. Valeo,
U.S. 1, 37 (1976):
"Treating these expenses [the expenses incurred by campaign
volunteers] as contributions when made to the candidate's campaign or at the
direction of the candidate or his staff forecloses an avenue of abuse without
limiting actions voluntarily undertaken by citizens independently of a
candidate's campaign." (omitted.)
Again, in striking down the independent expenditure limitations of the
Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, 18 U.S.C. 608(e)(1) (1970 ed.,
[ 514 U.S. 334, 351] Supp. IV)
(repealed 1976), we distinguished another section of the statute ( 608(b),
which we upheld) that placed a ceiling on contributions to a political
"By contrast, 608(e)(1) limits expenditures for express
advocacy of candidates made totally independently of the candidate and his
campaign. Unlike contributions, such independent expenditures may well provide
little assistance to the candidate's campaign and indeed may prove
counterproductive. The absence of prearrangement and coordination of an
expenditure with the candidate or his agent not only undermines the value of
the expenditure to the candidate, but also alleviates the danger that
expenditures will be given as a quid pro quo for improper commitments from the
candidate. Rather than preventing circumvention of the contribution
limitations, 608(e)(1) severely restricts all independent advocacy despite its
substantially diminished potential for abuse."
U.S., at 47.
 "The risk of corruption perceived in cases
involving candidate elections, e. g., United States v. Automobile Workers, [
U.S. 567 (1957)]; United States v. CIO, [
U.S. 106 (1948)], simply is not present in a popular vote on a public
issue." First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti,
U.S. 765, 790 (1978) (footnote omitted).
 As the Illinois Supreme Court explained in People
v. White, 116 Ill. 2d 171, 180, 506 N. E. 2d 1284, 1288 (Ill. 1987), which
struck down a similar statute:
"Implicit in the State's ... justification is the concern
that the public could be misinformed and an election swayed on the strength of
an eleventh-hour anonymous smear campaign to which the candidate could not
meaningfully respond. The statute cannot be upheld on this ground, however,
because it sweeps within its net a great deal of anonymous speech completely
unrelated to this concern. In the first place, the statute has no time limit
and applies to literature circulated two months prior to an election as well as
that distributed two days before. The statute also prohibits anonymous
literature supporting or opposing not only candidates, but also referenda. A
public question clearly cannot be the victim of character assassination."
The temporal breadth of the Ohio statute also distinguishes it from the
[ 514 U.S. 334, 352] Tennessee
law that we upheld in Burson v. Freeman, 504 U.S. ___ (1992). The Tennessee
statute forbade electioneering within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling
place. It applied only on election day. The state's interest in preventing
voter intimidation and election fraud was therefore enhanced by the need to
prevent last-minute misinformation to which there is no time to respond.
Moreover, Tennessee geographically confined the reach of its law to a 100-foot
no-solicitation zone. By contrast, the Ohio law forbids anonymous campaign
speech wherever it occurs.
 "In deciding whether this novel and
restrictive gloss on the First Amendment comports with the Constitution and the
precedents of this Court, we need not survey the outer boundaries of the
Amendment's protection of corporate speech, or address the abstract question
whether corporations have the full measure of rights that individuals enjoy
under the First Amendment." Bellotti,
U.S., at 777-778.
In a footnote to that passage, we continued:
"Nor is there any occasion to consider in this case
whether, under different circumstances, a justification for a restriction on
speech that would be inadequate as applied to individuals might suffice to
sustain the same restriction as applied to corporations, unions, or like
entities." Id., at 777-778, n. 13.
 "Corporate advertising, unlike some methods of
participation in political campaigns, is likely to be highly visible.
Identification of the source of advertising may be required as a means of
disclosure, so that the people will be able to evaluate the arguments to which
they are being subjected. See Buckley,
U.S., at 66-67; United States v. Harriss,
U.S. 612, 625-626 (1954). In addition, we emphasized in Buckley the
prophylactic effect of requiring that the source of communication be disclosed.
U.S., at 67 ." Bellotti,
U.S., at 792, n. 32.
 One of those provisions, addressing contributions
by campaign committees, requires:
"the identification of each person to whom expenditures
have been made by such committee or on behalf of such committee within the
calendar year in an aggregate amount or value in excess of $100, the amount,
date, and purpose of each such expenditure and the name and address of, and
office sought by, each candidate on whose behalf such expenditure was
made." 2 U.S.C. 434(b) (9) (reprinted [514
U.S. 334, 355] in Buckley,
U.S., at 158 ).
A separate provision, 2 U.S.C. 434(e) (reprinted in Buckley,
U.S., at 160 ), requires individuals making contributions or expenditures
to file statements containing the same information.
 This interest also serves to distinguish United
States v. Harriss,
U.S. 612 (1954), in which we upheld limited disclosure requirements for
lobbyists. The activities of lobbyists who have direct access to elected
representatives, if undisclosed, may well present the appearance of corruption.
 We note here also that the federal Act, while
constitutional on its face, may not be constitutional in all its applications.
Cf. Brown v. Socialist Workers '74 Campaign Comm. (Ohio),
U.S. 87, 88 (1982) (holding Ohio disclosure requirements unconstitutional
as applied to "a minor political party which historically has been the
object of harassment by government officials and private parties");
U.S., at 74 (exempting minor parties from disclosure requirements if they
can show "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").
[514 U.S. 334, 334]
The dissent is stirring in its appreciation of democratic values. But I do
not see the Court's opinion as unguided by "bedrock principle,"
tradition, or our case law. See post, at 8, 5-9, 9-11. Margaret McIntyre's
case, it seems to me, bears a marked resemblance to Margaret Gilleo's
case and Mary Grace's. All three decisions, I believe, are sound, and
hardly sensational, applications of our First Amendment jurisprudence.
In for a calf is not always in for a cow. The Court's decision finds
unnecessary, overintrusive, and inconsistent with American ideals the State's
imposition of a fine on an individual leafleteer who, within her local
community, spoke her mind, but sometimes not her [514 U.S. 334, 335] name. We do not thereby hold
that the State may not in other, larger circumstances, require the speaker to
disclose its interest by disclosing its identity. Appropriately leaving open
matters not presented by McIntyre's handbills, the Court recognizes that a
State's interest in protecting an election process "might justify a more
limited identification requirement." Ante, at 19. But the Court has
convincingly explained why Ohio lacks "cause for inhibiting the
leafletting at issue here." Ibid.
 See City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. ___ (1994), in
which we held that the City of Ladue could not prohibit homeowner Gilleo's
display of a small sign, on her lawn or in a window, opposing war in the
 Grace was the "lone picketer" who stood on
the sidewalk in front of this Court with a sign containing the text of the
First Amendment, prompting us to exclude public sidewalks from the statutory
ban on display of a "flag, banner, or device" on Court grounds.
United States v. Grace,
U.S. 171, 183 (1983). [514 U.S. 334,