McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission

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McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued October 12, 1994
Decided April 19, 1995
Full case nameJoseph McIntyre, executor of Estate of Margaret McIntyre, deceased, petitioner v. Ohio Elections Commission, et al.
Citations514 U.S. 334 (more)
115 S. Ct. 1511; 131 L. Ed. 2d 426; 1995 U.S. LEXIS 2847
Case history
Prior67 Ohio St. 3d 391, 618 N.E.2d 152 (1993); cert. granted, 510 U.S. 1108 (1994).
SubsequentOn remand, 72 Ohio St. 3d 1544, 650 N.E.2d 903 (1995).
An Ohio statute that prohibits anonymous political or campaign literature is unconstitutional.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
MajorityStevens, joined by O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer
DissentScalia, joined by Rehnquist
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I
Ohio Code § 3599.09 (A)

McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that an Ohio statute that prohibits anonymous political or campaign literature is unconstitutional.[1] Writing for the Court, Justice Stevens asserted that such action is protected by the First Amendment, and therefore violated the constitutional principle of freedom of speech. Justice Scalia dissented, in an opinion which Chief Justice Rehnquist joined. Justice Ginsburg wrote a concurrence, while Justice Thomas wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment.


Margaret McIntyre, a taxpayer, passed out pamphlets that opposed a proposed school tax. The Ohio Elections Commission found her guilty of violating Ohio Code § 3599.09(A), which forbade "the distribution of campaign literature that does not contain the name and address of the person or campaign official issuing the literature."[1] The Board fined her.[1]

McIntyre appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, which reversed the decision. The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed that court, putting back the fine. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court. She petitioned to the Supreme Court of the United States, which granted writ of certiorari. Extensive amici briefs were filed in the case. In the meanwhile, the plaintiff had died, but her executor continued the litigation.[1]

Subsequent law[edit]

Fifteen years later, the Supreme Court distinguished the McIntyre rule in Doe v. Reed, 561 U.S. 186 (2010). In Doe, they held that the disclosure of signatures on a referendum does not violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[2] This holding came out of the Washington Referendum 71 (2009), in which the people of Washington state confirmed Senate Bill 5688, a law extending the rights and obligations of domestic partnership in Washington.

A defendant in a defamation lawsuit attempted to use this case as a precedent that "sources have the right of anonymous speech under the First Amendment", but in 2011, the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the argument, distinguishing that case from McIntyre.[3] In that case, the defendant was held not to be a journalist for the purposes of privilege, but was she also not anonymous, as she had posted her identity.[4]

During the Albany, New York 2011 school budget campaign, anonymous flyers were mailed and telephones called that (unsuccessfully) aimed to defeat the Albany City School District budget.[5] It was later revealed that it was funded by "a charter-affiliated group ... connected to Tom Carroll," who was "founder of the Brighter Choice Foundation, which supports all of the city's 11 charter schools."[5] The opponents of the public schools spent $6,766 on postage for the mailings, while "the total cost of the professionally-produced postcards, as well as a telephone push poll, likely far exceeded $10,000."[5] This led to a bill being introduced into the New York State Legislature to require disclosure for political mailings that cost over $1,000.[5] The bill was written by majority legislators Member of the Assembly Sam Hoyt and Senator Kenneth LaValle.[5] That bill is pending as of June 2011.

The importance of anonymous speech[edit]

In striking down the law, the court considered some important reasons to allow anonymous speech that weighed in their decision.

  1. Enhance authority - "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."[6]
  2. Encourage open discourse - "The interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry."[7]
  3. Safety from retaliation - "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."[8]

In sum the Court said:

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995).  This article incorporates public domain material from this U.S government document.
  2. ^ Doe v. Reed, 561 U.S. 186 (2010).
  3. ^ Too Much Media, LLC v. Hale (N.J. 2011), slip. op. at 37, fn. 5, citing McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334, 341-43, 115 S. Ct. 1511, 1516-17, 131 L. Ed. 2d 426, 436-37 (1995). Accessed June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ Too Much Media, LLC v. Hale,, supra, slip. op. at 38, fn. 5.
  5. ^ a b c d e Scott Waldman (May 31, 2011). "Proposed law: Blast a school budget, attach your name; Legislators want more disclosure on efforts to sway school votes". Times Union. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  6. ^ McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334, 342.
  7. ^ McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334, 374.
  8. ^ McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334, 341.

External links[edit]