Amicus Brief: Mazo v. N.J. Secretary of State
In November, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to New Jersey’s so-called “slogan statutes,” which generally permit candidates running in primary elections to engage in political speech on the ballot by authorizing them to have six-word slogans printed by their names. But New Jersey prohibits any slogan that references the name of an individual or in-state corporation without written consent—a loophole that political insiders and machines have exploited to incorporate sham corporations that prevent disfavored candidates from criticizing incumbents (as well as preventing candidates from calling themselves pro-Trump, anti-Trump, or even anti-Putin). In other words, this goes far beyond simply disallowing a candidate from falsely claiming a party’s endorsement.
According to the court, the slogan statutes don’t even trigger traditional free-speech analysis, much less violate the First Amendment. Instead, the court held that the slogan statutes are permissible under a more deferential balancing test used for certain election-law claims called Anderson-Burdick. The decision conflicts with Supreme Court precedent that protects political speech and proscribing content-based discrimination.
Seton Hall professor Gene Mazo, a centrist Democrat who teaches election law, is the lead plaintiff here and he has now filed a petition before the Supreme Court. MI has joined the Liberty Justice Center on a supporting brief that urges the high court to take the case because the laws at issue constitute content-based regulation of core political speech and are thus highly suspect.
Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow and director of Constitutional Studies at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.
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