U.S. Supreme Court
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, 362 U.S. 60, in which this Court invalidated an ordinance prohibiting all anonymous leafletting.
Section 3599.09(A)'s prohibition of the distribution of anonymous campaign literature abridges the freedom of speech in violation of the First Amendment. Pp. 7-24.
(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, 460 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, 435 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. 9-14.
(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, 435 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, 424 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]
JUSTICE STEVENS 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. 334, 335]
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 handbills.
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, 362 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, 460 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[, 435 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. California, 362 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. 362 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." 362 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, 460 U.S. 780 (1983); Storer v. Brown, 415 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, 479 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, 460 U.S., at 789, quoting Storer, 415 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] 460 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, 460 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, 486 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, 354 U.S. 476, 484 (1957). Although First Amendment protections are not confined to `the exposition of ideas,' Winters v. New York, 333 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, 384 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, 376 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, 401 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, 424 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, 435 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, 303 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, 337 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, 435 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, 418 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, 349]
[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 prohibition.
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 issue here.
Finally, Ohio vigorously argues that our opinions in First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765 (1978), and Buckley v. Valeo, 424 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. 435 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.'" 424 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, 424 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 provision.
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, 435 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 competing theories).
 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, 395 U.S. 486, 531, n. 60 (1969).
 In his concurring opinion, Justice Harlan added these words:
"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 v. California, 362 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 anonymous.
 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] 486 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:
Section 3599.09.2(B) provides:
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, 376 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 supplement.
 We stressed the importance of this distinction in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 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 campaign.
"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." 424 U.S., at 47.
 "The risk of corruption perceived in cases involving candidate elections, e. g., United States v. Automobile Workers, [ 352 U.S. 567 (1957)]; United States v. CIO, [ 335 U.S. 106 (1948)], simply is not present in a popular vote on a public issue." First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 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, 435 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, 424 U.S., at 66-67; United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 625-626 (1954). In addition, we emphasized in Buckley the prophylactic effect of requiring that the source of communication be disclosed. 424 U.S., at 67 ." Bellotti, 435 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, 424 U.S., at 158 ).
A separate provision, 2 U.S.C. 434(e) (reprinted in Buckley, 424 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, 347 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), 459 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"); Buckley, 424 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]
JUSTICE GINSBURG, concurring.
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 Persian Gulf.
 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, 461 U.S. 171, 183 (1983). [514 U.S. 334, 334]