Williams vs. Rhodes: How One Candidate, One State, One Week, and One Justice Shaped Ballot Access Law

Gryskiewicz, Eren Jon, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
McCurdy, Charles, Department of History, University of Virginia

Ohio’s laws prevented George Wallace from appearing on the ballot in the 1968 presidential campaign. Wallace challenged the laws and the Court overturned them, placing the Governor on the ballot in mid-October. That decision, Williams v. Rhodes, has been shaped and reshaped by subsequent decisions. This Note first posits that George Wallace’s formidable campaign and Ohio’s extreme laws, as compared to the other states, impelled the Court to place Wallace on the Ohio ballot. In so doing, the Court righted a wrong but produced a doctrinally confused opinion. The Note then traces that opinion’s development through the Justices’ papers and examines the draft changes and the effects those changes had on the final opinion. Next, the Note charts the Justices’ attempts to create coherency in the jurisprudence that developed, using their papers to illuminate their contentions and deliberations, as they dealt with Williams’ progeny. This Note then contends that the Court’s subsequent search for a coherent standard is an ongoing attempt to correct the jurisprudential confusion it created in 1968. Finally, the Note argues that the jurisprudential morass has generated efficiency, uniformity, and predictability concerns for district courts while enabling post hoc rationalization and judicial intuition to creep into ballot access analyses. Using Perry v. Judd as a 2012 example, the Note calls for an explicit adoption of the Anderson test with a focus on the entirety of a state’s statutory scheme, as most in accord with Williams’ rationales without suffering its shortcomings and clearing the accumulated and contradictory precedents that remain today.

MA (Master of Arts)
Supreme Court, Rhodes, ballot access, Williams, Justice Black, election law, Justice Douglas, George Wallace, Ohio
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