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Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party (95-1608), 520 U.S. 351 (1997)
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NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


No. 95-1608


MICHELE L. TIMMONS, ACTING DIRECTOR, RAMSEY COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PROPERTY RECORDS AND REVENUE, et al., PETITIONERS v. TWIN CITIES AREA NEW PARTY

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eighth circuit

[April 28, 1997]

Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court.

Most States prohibit multiple party, or "fusion," candidacies for elected office. [n.1] The Minnesota laws challenged in this case prohibit a candidate from appearing on the ballot as the candidate of more than one party. Minn. Stat. §§204B.06, subd. 1(b) and 204B.04, subd. 2 (1994). We hold that such a prohibition does not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Respondent is a chartered chapter of the national New Party. Petitioners are Minnesota election officials. In April 1994, Minnesota State Representative Andy Dawkins was running unopposed in the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party's (DFL) primary. [n.2] That same month, New Party members chose Dawkins as their candidate for the same office in the November 1994 general election. Neither Dawkins nor the DFL objected, and Dawkins signed the required affidavit of candidacy for the New Party. Minn. Stat. §204B.06 (1994). Minnesota, however, prohibits fusion candidacies. [n.3] Because Dawkins had already filed as a candidate for the DFL's nomination, local election officials refused to accept the New Party's nominating petition. [n.4]

The New Party filed suit in United States District Court, contending that Minnesota's antifusion laws violated the Party's associational rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court granted summary judgment for the state defendants, concluding that Minnesota's fusion ban was "a valid and non discriminatory regulation of the election process", and noting that "issues concerning the mechanics of choosing candidates . . . are, in large part, matters of policy best left to the deliberative bodies themselves." Twin Cities Area New Party v. McKenna, 863 F. Supp. 988, 994 (D. Minn. 1994).

The Court of Appeals reversed. Twin Cities Area New Party v. McKenna, 73 F. 3d 196, 198 (CA8 1996). First, the court determined that Minnesota's fusion ban "unquestionably" and "severe[ly]" burdened the New Party's "freedom to select a standard bearer who best represents the party's ideologies and preferences" and its right to "broaden the base of public participation in and support for [its] activities." Ibid. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The court then decided that Minnesota's absolute ban on multiple party nominations was "broader than necessary to serve the State's asserted interests" in avoiding intraparty discord and party splintering, maintaining a stable political system, and avoiding voter confusion, and that the State's remaining concerns about multiple party nomination were "simply unjustified in this case." Id., at 199-200. The court noted, however, that the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit had upheld Wisconsin's similar fusion ban in Swamp v. Kennedy, 950 F. 2d 383, 386 (1991) (fusion ban did not burden associational rights and, even if it did, the State's interests justified the burden), cert. denied, 505 U.S. 1204 (1992). Nonetheless, the court concluded that Minnesota's fusion ban provisions, Minn. Stat. §§204B.06, subd. 1(b) and 204B.04, subd. 2 (1994), were unconstitutional because they severely burdened the New Party's associational rights and were not narrowly tailored to advance Minnesota's valid interests. We granted certiorari, 517 U. S. ___ (1996), and now reverse.

Fusion was a regular feature of Gilded Age American politics. Particularly in the West and Midwest, candidates of issue oriented parties like the Grangers, Independents, Greenbackers, and Populists often succeeded through fusion with the Democrats, and vice versa. Republicans, for their part, sometimes arranged fusion candidacies in the South, as part of a general strategy of encouraging and exploiting divisions within the dominant Democratic Party. See generally Argersinger, "A Place at the Table": Fusion Politics and Antifusion Laws, 85 Amer. Hist. Rev. 287, 288-290 (1980).

Fusion was common in part because political parties, rather than local or state governments, printed and distributed their own ballots. These ballots contained only the names of a particular party's candidates, and so a voter could drop his party's ticket in the ballot box without even knowing that his party's candidates were supported by other parties as well. But after the 1888 presidential election, which was widely regarded as having been plagued by fraud, many States moved to the "Australian ballot system." Under that system, an official ballot, containing the names of all the candidates legally nominated by all the parties, was printed at public expense and distributed by public officials at polling places. Id., at 290-292; Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428, 446-447 (1992) (Kennedy, J., dissenting) (States' move to the Australian ballot system was a "progressive reform to reduce fraudulent election practices"). By 1896, use of the Australian ballot was widespread. During the same period, many States enacted other election related reforms, including bans on fusion candidacies. See Argersinger, supra, at 288, 295-298. Minnesota banned fusion in 1901. [n.5] This trend has continued and, in this century, fusion has become the exception, not the rule. Today, multiple party candidacies are permitted in just a few States, [n.6] and fusion plays a significant role only in New York. [n.7]

The First Amendment protects the right of citizens to associate and to form political parties for the advancement of common political goals and ideas. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm. v. Federal Election Comm., 518 U. S. ___, ___ (1996) (slip op., at 9) ("The independent expression of a political party's views is `core' First Amendment activity no less than is the independent expression of individuals, candidates, or other political committees"); Norman v. Reed, 502 U.S. 279, 288 (1992) ("[C]onstitutional right of citizens to create and develop new political parties. . . . advances the constitutional interest of like minded voters to gather in pursuit of common political ends"); Tashjian v. Republican Party of Conn., 479 U.S. 208, 214 (1986). As a result, political parties' government, structure, and activities enjoy constitutional protection. Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Central Comm., 489 U.S. 214, 230 (1989) (noting political party's "discretion in how to organize itself, conduct its affairs, and select its leaders"); Tashjian, supra, at 224 (Constitution protects a party's "determination . . . of the structure which best allows it to pursue its political goals").

On the other hand, it is also clear that States may, and inevitably must, enact reasonable regulations of parties, elections, and ballots to reduce election and campaign related disorder. Burdick, supra, at 433 ("`[A]s a practical matter, there must be a substantial regulation of elections if they are to be fair and honest and if some sort of order, rather than chaos, is to accompany the democratic process'") (quoting Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724, 730 (1974)); Tashjian, supra, at 217 (The Constitution grants States "broad power to prescribe the `Time, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives,' Art. I, §4, cl. 1, which power is matched by state control over the election process for state offices").

When deciding whether a state election law violates First and Fourteenth Amendment associational rights, we weigh the "`character and magnitude'" of the burden the State's rule imposes on those rights against the interests the State contends justify that burden, and consider the extent to which the State's concerns make the burden necessary. Burdick, supra, at 434 (quoting Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, 789 (1983)). Regulations imposing severe burdens on plaintiffs' rights must be narrowly tailored and advance a compelling state interest. Lesser burdens, however, trigger less exacting review, and a State's "`important regulatory interests'" will usually be enough to justify "`reasonable, nondiscriminatory restrictions.'" Burdick, supra, at 434 (quoting Anderson, supra, at 788); Norman, supra, at 288-289 (requiring "corresponding interest sufficiently weighty to justify the limitation"). No bright line separates permissible election related regulation from unconstitutional infringements on First Amendment freedoms. Storer, supra, at 730 ("[N]o litmus paper test . . . separat[es] those restrictions that are valid from those that are invidious . . . . The rule is not self executing and is no substitute for the hard judgments that must be made").

The New Party's claim that it has a right to select its own candidate is uncontroversial, so far as it goes. See, e.g., Cousins v. Wigoda, 419 U.S. 477 (1975) (Party, not State, has right to decide who will be State's delegates at party convention). That is, the New Party, and not someone else, has the right to select the New Party's "standard bearer." It does not follow, though, that a party is absolutely entitled to have its nominee appear on the ballot as that party's candidate. A particular candidate might be ineligible for office, [n.8] unwilling to serve, or, as here, another party's candidate. That a particular individual may not appear on the ballot as a particular party's candidate does not severely burden that party's association rights. See Burdick, 504 U. S., at 440, n. 10 ("It seems to us that limiting the choice of candidates to those who have complied with state election law requirements is the prototypical example of a regulation that, while it affects the right to vote, is eminently reasonable"); Anderson, 460 U. S., at 792, n. 12 ("Although a disaffiliation provision may preclude . . . voters from supporting a particular ineligible candidate, they remain free to support and promote other candidates who satisfy the State's disaffiliation requirements"); id., at 793, n. 15.

The New Party relies on Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Central Comm., supra, and Tashjian v. Republican Party of Conn., supra. In Eu, we struck down California election provisions that prohibited political parties from endorsing candidates in party primaries and regulated parties' internal affairs and structure. And in Tashjian, we held that Connecticut's closed primary statute, which required voters in a party primary to be registered party members, interfered with a party's associational rights by limiting "the group of registered voters whom the Party may invite to participate in the basic function of selecting the Party's candidates." 479 U. S., at 215-216 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). But while Tashjian and Eu involved regulation of political parties' internal affairs and core associational activities, Minnesota's fusion ban does not. The ban, which applies to major and minor parties alike, simply precludes one party's candidate from appearing on the ballot, as that party's candidate, if already nominated by another party. Respondent is free to try to convince Representative Dawkins to be the New Party's, not the DFL's, candidate. See Swamp, 950 F. 2d, at 385 ("[A] party may nominate any candidate that the party can convince to be its candidate"). Whether the Party still wants to endorse a candidate who, because of the fusion ban, will not appear on the ballot as the Party's candidate, is up to the Party.

The Court of Appeals also held that Minnesota's laws "keep the New Party from developing consensual political alliances and thus broadening the base of public participation in and support for its activities." McKenna, 73 F. 3d, at 199. The burden on the Party was, the court held, severe because "[h]istory shows that minor parties have played a significant role in the electoral system where multiple party nomination is legal, but have no meaningful influence where multiple party nomination is banned." Ibid. In the view of the Court of Appeals, Minnesota's fusion ban forces members of the new party to make a "no win choice" between voting for "candidates with no realistic chance of winning, defect[ing] from their party and vot[ing] for a major party candidate who does, or declin[ing] to vote at all." Ibid.

But Minnesota has not directly precluded minor political parties from developing and organizing. Cf. Norman, 502 U. S., at 289 (statute "foreclose[d] the development of any political party lacking the resources to run a statewide campaign"). Nor has Minnesota excluded a particular group of citizens, or a political party, from participation in the election process. Cf. Anderson, supra, at 792-793 (filing deadline "places a particular burden on an identifiable segment of Ohio's independent minded voters"); Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134 (1972) (striking down Texas statute requiring candidates to pay filing fees as a condition to having their names placed on primary election ballots). The New Party remains free to endorse whom it likes, to ally itself with others, to nominate candidates for office, and to spread its message to all who will listen. Cf. Eu, 489 U. S., at 223 (California law curtailed right to "[f]ree discussion about candidates for public office"); Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm'n, 518 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 8) (restrictions on party's spending impair its ability to "engage in direct political advocacy").

The Court of Appeals emphasized its belief that, without fusion based alliances, minor parties cannot thrive. This is a predictive judgment which is by no means self evident. [n.9] But, more importantly, the supposed benefits of fusion to minor parties does not require that Minnesota permit it. See Tashjian, supra, at 222 (refusing to weigh merits of closed and open primaries). Many features of our political system--e.g., single member districts, "first past the post" elections, and the high costs of campaigning--make it difficult for third parties to succeed in American politics. Burnham Declaration, App. 12-13. But the Constitution does not require States to permit fusion any more than it requires them to move to proportional representation elections or public financing of campaigns. See Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 75 (1980) (plurality opinion) ("Whatever appeal the dissenting opinion's view may have as a matter of political theory, it is not the law").

The New Party contends that the fusion ban burdens its "right . . . to communicate its choice of nominees on the ballot on terms equal to those offered other parties, and the right of the party's supporters and other voters to receive that information," and insists that communication on the ballot of a party's candidate choice is a "critical source of information for the great majority of voters . . . who . . . rely upon party `labels' as a voting guide." Brief for Respondent 22-23.

It is true that Minnesota's fusion ban prevents the New Party from using the ballot to communicate to the public that it supports a particular candidate who is already another party's candidate. In addition, the ban shuts off one possible avenue a party might use to send a message to its preferred candidate because, with fusion, a candidate who wins an election on the basis of two parties' votes will likely know more--if the parties' votes are counted separately--about the particular wishes and ideals of his constituency. We are unpersuaded, however, by the Party's contention that it has a right to use the ballot itself to send a particularized message, to its candidate and to the voters, about the nature of its support for the candidate. Ballots serve primarily to elect candidates, not as fora for political expression. See Burdick, 504 U. S., at 438; id., at 445 (Kennedy, J., dissenting). Like all parties in Minnesota, the New Party is able to use the ballot to communicate information about itself and its candidate to the voters, so long as that candidate is not already someone else's candidate. The Party retains great latitude in its ability to communicate ideas to voters and candidates through its participation in the campaign, and Party members may campaign for, endorse, and vote for their preferred candidate even if he is listed on the ballot as another party's candidate. See Anderson, 460 U. S., at 788 ("[A]n election campaign is an effective platform for the expression of views on the issues of the day"); Illinois Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173, 186 (1979) ("[A]n election campaign is a means of disseminating ideas").

In sum, Minnesota's laws do not restrict the ability of the New Party and its members to endorse, support, or vote for anyone they like. The laws do not directly limit the Party's access to the ballot. They are silent on parties' internal structure, governance, and policy making. Instead, these provisions reduce the universe of potential candidates who may appear on the ballot as the Party's nominee only by ruling out those few individuals who both have already agreed to be another party's candidate and also, if forced to choose, themselves prefer that other party. They also limit, slightly, the Party's ability to send a message to the voters and to its preferred candidates. We conclude that the burdens Minnesota imposes on the Party's First and Fourteenth Amendment associational rights--though not trivial--are not severe.

The Court of Appeals determined that Minnesota's fusion ban imposed "severe" burdens on the New Party's associational rights, and so it required the State to show that the ban was narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests. McKenna, 73 F. 3d, at 198. We disagree; given the burdens imposed, the bar is not so high. Instead, the State's asserted regulatory interests need only be "sufficiently weighty to justify the limitation" imposed on the Party's rights. Norman, 502 U. S., at 288-289; Burdick, supra, at 434 (quoting Anderson, supra, at 788). Nor do we require elaborate, empirical verification of the weightiness of the State's asserted justifications. See Munro v. Socialist Workers Party, 479 U.S. 189, 195-196 (1986) ("Legislatures . . . should be permitted to respond to potential deficiencies in the electoral process with foresight rather than reactively, provided that the response is reasonable and does not significantly impinge on constitutionally protected rights").

The Court of Appeals acknowledged Minnesota's interests in avoiding voter confusion and overcrowded ballots, preventing party splintering and disruptions of the two party system, and being able to clearly identify the election winner. McKenna, supra, at 199-200. Similarly, the Seventh Circuit, in Swamp, noted Wisconsin's "compelling" interests in avoiding voter confusion, preserving the integrity of the election process, and maintaining a stable political system. Id., at 386; cf. id., at 387-388 (Fairchild, J., concurring) (State has a compelling interest in "maintaining the distinct identity of parties"). Minnesota argues here that its fusion ban is justified by its interests in avoiding voter confusion, promoting candidate competition (by reserving limited ballot space for opposing candidates), preventing electoral distortions and ballot manipulations, and discouraging party splintering and "unrestrained factionalism." Brief for Petitioners 41-50.

States certainly have an interest in protecting the integrity, fairness, and efficiency of their ballots and election processes as means for electing public officials. Bullock, 405 U. S., at 145 (State may prevent "frivolous or fraudulent candidacies") (citing Jenness v. Fortson, 403 U.S. 431, 442 (1971)); Eu, 489 U. S., at 231; Norman, supra, at 290 (States have an interest in preventing "misrepresentation"); Rosario v. Rockefeller, 410 U.S. 752, 761 (1973). Petitioners contend that a candidate or party could easily exploit fusion as a way of associating his or its name with popular slogans and catch phrases. For example, members of a major party could decide that a powerful way of "sending a message" via the ballot would be for various factions of that party to nominate the major party's candidate as the candidate for the newly formed "No New Taxes," "Conserve Our Environment," and "Stop Crime Now" parties. In response, an opposing major party would likely instruct its factions to nominate that party's candidate as the "Fiscal Responsibility," "Healthy Planet," and "Safe Streets" parties' candidate.

Whether or not the putative "fusion" candidates' names appeared on one or four ballot lines, such maneuvering would undermine the ballot's purpose by transforming it from a means of choosing candidates to a billboard for political advertising. The New Party responds to this concern, ironically enough, by insisting that the State could avoid such manipulation by adopting more demanding ballot access standards rather than prohibiting multiple party nomination. Brief for Respondent, 38. However, as we stated above, because the burdens the fusion ban imposes on the Party's associational rights are not severe, the State need not narrowly tailor the means it chooses to promote ballot integrity. The Constitution does not require that Minnesota compromise the policy choices embodied in its ballot access requirements to accommodate the New Party's fusion strategy. See Minn. Stat. §204B.08, subd. 3 (1994) (signature requirements for nominating petitions); Rosario, supra, at 761-762 (New York's time limitation for enrollment in a political party was part of an overall scheme aimed at the preservation of the integrity of the State's electoral process).

Relatedly, petitioners urge that permitting fusion would undercut Minnesota's ballot access regime by allowing minor parties to capitalize on the popularity of another party's candidate, rather than on their own appeal to the voters, in order to secure access to the ballot. Brief for Petitioners 45-46. That is, voters who might not sign a minor party's nominating petition based on the party's own views and candidates might do so if they viewed the minor party as just another way of nominating the same person nominated by one of the major parties. Thus, Minnesota fears that fusion would enable minor parties, by nominating a major party's candidate, to bootstrap their way to major party status in the next election and circumvent the State's nominating petition requirement for minor parties. See Minn. Stat. §§200.02, subd. 7 (defining "major party") and §204D.13 (describing ballot order for major and other parties). The State surely has a valid interest in making sure that minor and third parties who are granted access to the ballot are bona fide and actually supported, on their own merits, by those who have provided the statutorily required petition or ballot support. Anderson, 460 U. S., at 788, n. 9; Storer, 415 U. S., at 733, 746.

States also have a strong interest in the stability of their political systems. [n.10] Eu, supra, at 226; Storer, supra, at 736. This interest does not permit a State to completely insulate the two party system from minor parties' or independent candidates' competition and influence, Anderson, supra, at 802; Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23 (1968), nor is it a paternalistic license for States to protect political parties from the consequences of their own internal disagreements. Eu, supra, at 227; Tashjian, 479 U. S., at 224. That said, the States' interest permits them to enact reasonable election regulations that may, in practice, favor the traditional two party system, see Burnham Declaration, App. 12 (American politics has been, for the most part, organized around two parties since the time of Andrew Jackson), and that temper the destabilizing effects of party splintering and excessive factionalism. The Constitution permits the Minnesota Legislature to decide that political stability is best served through a healthy two party system. See Rutan v. Republican Party of Ill., 497 U.S. 62, 107 (1990) (Scalia, J., dissenting) ("The stabilizing effects of such a [two party] system are obvious"); Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109, 144-145(1986) (O'Connor, J., concurring) ("There can be little doubt that the emergence of a strong and stable two party system in this country has contributed enormously to sound and effective government"); Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507, 532 (1980) (Powell, J., dissenting) ("Broad based political parties supply an essential coherence and flexibility to the American political scene"). And while an interest in securing the perceived benefits of a stable two party system will not justify unreasonably exclusionary restrictions, see Williams, supra, at 31-32, States need not remove all of the many hurdles third parties face in the American political arena today.

In Storer we upheld a California statute that denied ballot positions to independent candidates who had voted in the immediately preceding primary elections or had a registered party affiliation at any time during the year before the same primary elections. 415 U. S., at 728. [n.11] After surveying the relevant caselaw, we "ha[d] no hesitation in sustaining" the party disaffiliation provisions. Id., at 733. We recognized that the provisions were part of a "general state policy aimed at maintaining the integrity of . . . the ballot," and noted that the provision did not discriminate against independent candidates. Id., at 734. We concluded that while a "State need not take the course California has, . . . California apparently believes with the Founding Fathers that splintered parties and unrestrained factionalism may do significant damage to the fabric of government. See The Federalist, No. 10 (Madison). It appears obvious to us that the one year disaffiliation provision furthers the State's interest in the stability of its political system." Id., at 736; see also Lippitt v. Cipollone, 404 U.S. 1032 (1972) (affirming, without opinion, district court decision upholding statute banning party primary candidacies of those who had voted in another party's primary within last four years). [n.12]

Our decision in Burdick v. Takushi, supra, is also relevant. There, we upheld Hawaii's ban on write in voting against a claim that the ban unreasonably infringed on citizens' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In so holding, we rejected the petitioner's argument that the ban "deprive[d] him of the opportunity to cast a meaningful ballot," emphasizing that the function of elections is to elect candidates and that "we have repeatedly upheld reasonable, politically neutral regulations that have the effect of channeling expressive activit[ies] at the polls." 504 U. S., at 437-438.

Minnesota's fusion ban is far less burdensome than the disaffiliation rule upheld in Storer, and is justified by similarly weighty state interests. By reading Storer as dealing only with "sore loser candidates," the dissent, in our view, fails to appreciate the case's teaching. Post, at 8 (Stevens, J., dissenting). Under the California disaffiliation statute at issue in Storer, any person affiliated with a party at any time during the year leading up to the primary election was absolutely precluded from appearing on the ballot as an independent or as the candidate of another party. Minnesota's fusion ban is not nearly so restrictive; the challenged provisions say nothing about the previous party affiliation of would be candidates but only require that, in order to appear on the ballot, a candidate not be the nominee of more than one party. California's disaffiliation rule limited the field of candidates by thousands; Minnesota's precludes only a handful who freely choose to be so limited. It is also worth noting that while California's disaffiliation statute absolutely banned many candidacies, Minnesota's fusion ban only prohibits a candidate from being named twice.

We conclude that the burdens Minnesota's fusion ban imposes on the New Party's associational rights are justified by "correspondingly weighty" valid state interests in ballot integrity and political stability. [n.13] In deciding that Minnesota's fusion ban does not unconstitutionally burden the New Party's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, we express no views on the New Party's policy based arguments concerning the wisdom of fusion. It may well be that, as support for new political parties increases, these arguments will carry the day in some States' legislatures. But the Constitution does not require Minnesota, and the approximately 40 other States that do not permit fusion, to allow it. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.

It is so ordered.


Notes

1 "Fusion," also called "cross filing" or "multiple party nomination," is "the electoral support of a single set of candidates by two or more parties." Argersinger, "A Place on the Ballot": Fusion Politics and Antifusion Laws, 85 Amer. Hist. Rev. 287, 288 (1980); see also Twin Cities Area New Party v. McKenna, 73 F. 3d 196, 197-198 (CA8 1996) (Fusion is "the nomination by more than one political party of the same candidate for the same office in the same general election").

2 The DFL is the product of a 1944 merger between Minnesota's Farmer Labor Party and the Democratic Party, and is a "major party" under Minnesota law. Minn. Stat. §200.02, subd. 7(a) (1994) (major parties are parties that have won five percent of a statewide vote and therefore participate in the state primary elections).

3 State law provides: "No individual who seeks nomination for any partisan or nonpartisan office at a primary shall be nominated for the same office by nominating petition, . . . " §204B.04, subd. 2. Minnesota law further requires that "[a]n affidavit of candidacy shall state the name of the office sought and shall state that the candidate: . . . (b) Has no other affidavit on file as a candidate for any office at the same primary or next ensuing general election." §204B.06, subd. 1(b).

4 Because the New Party is a "minor party" under Minnesota law, it does not hold a primary election but must instead file a nominating petition with the signatures of 500 eligible voters, or 10 percent of the total number of voters in the preceding state or county general election, whichever is less. §§204B.03, 204B.07-204B.08.

5 See Act of Apr. 13, 1901, ch. 312, 1902 Minn. Laws 524. The Minnesota Supreme Court struck down the ban in In re Day, 93 Minn. 178, 182, 102 N.W. 209, 211 (1904), because the title of the enacting bill did not reflect the bill's content. The ban was reenacted in 1905. 1905 Minn. Rev. Laws, ch. 6, §176, 27, 31. Minnesota enacted a revised election code, which includes the fusion related provisions involved in this case, in 1981. Act of Apr. 14, 1981, ch. 29, Art. 4, §6, 1981 Minn. Laws 73.

6 Burnham Declaration, App. 15. ("Practice of [multiple party nomination] in the 20th century has, of course, been much more limited. This owes chiefly to the fact that most state legislatures . . . outlawed the practice"); McKenna, 73 F. 3d, at 198 ("[M]ultiple party nomination is prohibited today, either directly or indirectly, in about forty states and the District of Columbia . . . "); S. Cobble & S. Siskind, Fusion: Multiple Party Nomination in the United States 8 (1993) (summarizing States' fusion laws).

7 See N. Y. Elec. Law §§6-120, 6-146(1) (McKinney 1978 and Supp. 1996). Since 1936, when fusion was last relegalized in New York, several minor parties, including the Liberal, Conservative, American Labor, and Right to Life Parties, have been active and influential in New York politics. See Burnham Declaration, App. 15-16; Cobble & Siskind, supra n. 6, at 3-4.

8 See, e.g., Minn. Stat. §204B.06, subd 1(c) (1994) (candidates must be 21 years of age or more upon assuming office and must have maintained residence in the district from which they seek election for 30 days before the general election).

9 Between the First and Second World Wars, for example, various radical, agrarian, and labor oriented parties thrived, without fusion, in the Midwest. See generally R. Vallely, Radicalism in the States (1989). One of these parties, Minnesota's Farmer Labor Party, displaced the Democratic Party as the Republicans' primary opponent in Minnesota during the 1930's. As one historian has noted: "The Minnesota Farmer Labor Party elected its candidates to the governorship on four occasions, to the U. S. Senate in five elections, and to the U. S. House in twenty five campaigns . . . . Never less than Minnesota's second strongest party, in 1936 Farmer Laborites dominated state politics. . . . The Farmer Labor Party was a success despite its independence of America's two dominant national parties and despite the sometimes bold anticapitalist rhetoric of its platforms." J. Haynes, Dubious Alliance 9 (1984). It appears that factionalism within the Farmer Labor Party, the popular successes of New Deal programs and ideology, and the gradual movement of political power from the States to the national government contributed to the Party's decline. See generally, Haynes, supra; Vallely, supra; M. Gieske, Minnesota Farmer Laborism: The Third Party Alternative (1979). Eventually, a much weakened Farmer Labor Party merged with the Democrats, forming what is now Minnesota's Democratic Farmer Labor Party, in 1944. Vallely, supra, at 156.

10 The dissents state that we may not consider "what appears to be the true basis for [our] holding--the interest in preserving the two party system," post, at 9 (Stevens, J., dissenting), because Minnesota did not defend this interest in its briefs and "expressly rejected" it at oral argument, ibid; see also post, at 1-2 (Souter, J., dissenting). In fact, at oral argument, the State contended that it has an interest in the stability of its political system and that, even if certain election related regulations, such as those requiring single member districts, tend to work to the advantage of the traditional two party system, the "States do have a permissible choice . . . there, as long as they don't go so far as to close the door to minor part[ies]." Tr. of Oral Arg. 27; see also Brief for Petitioners 46-47 (discussing State's interest in avoiding "splintered parties and unrestrained factionalism") (citing Storer, 415 U. S., at 736). We agree.

11 A similar provision applied to party candidates, and imposed a "flat disqualification upon any candidate seeking to run in a party primary if he has been `registered as affiliated with a political party other than that political party the nomination of which he seeks within 12 months immediately prior to the filing of the declaration.' " Another provision stated that "no person may file nomination papers for a party nomination and an independent nomination for the same office . . . . " Storer, 415 U. S., at 733.

12 The dissent insists that New York's experience with fusion politics undermines Minnesota's contention that its fusion ban promotes political stability. Post, at 7 n. 4, 13-14 n. 12 (Stevens, J., dissenting). California's experiment with cross filing, on the other hand, provides some justification for Minnesota's concerns. In 1946, for example, Earl Warren was the nominee of both major parties, and was therefore able to run unopposed in California's general election. It appears to be widely accepted that California's cross filing system stifled electoral competition and undermined the role of distinctive political parties. See B. Hyink, et al., Politics and Government in California 76 (12th ed. 1989) (California's cross filing law "undermined party responsibility and cohesiveness"); D. Mazmanian, Third Parties in Presidential Elections 134 (1974) (cross filing "diminish[ed] the role of political parties and work[ed] against the efforts of minority factions to gain recognition and a hearing in the electoral arena").

13 The dissent rejects the argument that Minnesota's fusion ban serves its alleged paternalistic interest in "avoiding voter confusion." Post, at 1, 7 (Stevens, J., dissenting) ("[T]his concern is meritless and severely underestimates the intelligence of the typical voter"). Although this supposed interest was discussed below, 73 F. 3d, at 199-200, and in the parties' briefs before this Court, Brief for Petitioners 41-44; Brief for Respondent 34-39, it plays no part in our analysis today.