Cook v. Gralike

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In Cook v. Gralike, 531 U.S. 510 (2001), the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated under the U.S. Constitution a provision in the Missouri Constitution requiring indication on the ballot of whether congressional candidates declined to support a term limits amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the court, stated that this law was not a permissible exercise of the state's power to regulate the time, place, and manner of holding elections for federal offices. See U.S. Const., Art., I, sec. 4, cl. 1. Specifically, the Court struck down the insertion of a "pejorative" words that "handicap candidates at the most crucial stage in the election process -- the instant before the vote is cast." 531 U.S. at 525 (quotation omitted).

This applied the holding in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton. Perhaps surprisingly, Justice Antonin Scalia joined Justice Stevens majority opinion, but the other Justices who expressed different views in U.S. Term Limits continued to differ from Justice Stevens on the same or new grounds.

Justice Kennedy provided a fuller expression in his separate concurrence of his view that State interference in the relationship between the people and their federal representatives is unconstitutional. Accordingly, Justice Kennedy's objection is based on greater political power for the people without state interference:


The principle is that Senators and Representatives in the National Government are responsible to the people who elect them, not to the States in which they reside. The Constitution was ratified by Conventions in the several States, not by the States themselves, U.S. Const., Art. VII, a historical fact and a constitutional imperative which underscore the proposition that the Constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United States. U.S. Const., preamble. The idea of federalism is that a National Legislature enacts laws which bind the people as individuals, not as citizens of a State; and, it follows, freedom is most secure if the people themselves, not the States as intermediaries, hold their federal legislators to account for the conduct of their office. If state enactments were allowed to condition or control certain actions of federal legislators, accountability would be blurred, with the legislators having the excuse of saying that they did not act in the exercise of their best judgment but simply in conformance with a state mandate. As noted in the concurring opinion in Thornton, "nothing in the Constitution or The Federalist Papers ... supports the idea of state interference with the most basic relation between the National Government and its citizens, the selection of legislative representatives." 514 U.S. at 842.

Id. at 528 (Kennedy, J., concurring).

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