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Opinion of BLACKMUN, J.

tion on a question are prohibited.” Tenn. Code Ann.

$2–7–111(b) (Supp. 1991). Violation of $2–7–111(b) is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment not greater than 30 days or a fine not to exceed $50, or both. Tenn. Code Ann. $$2–19– 119 and 40–35–111(e)(3) (1990).

II Respondent Mary Rebecca Freeman has been a candidate for office in Tennessee, has managed local campaigns, and has worked actively in statewide elections. In 1987, she was the treasurer for the campaign of a city-council candidate in Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County.

Asserting that $$2–7–111(b) and 2–19–119 limited her ability to communicate with voters, respondent brought a facial challenge to these statutes in Davidson County Chancery Court. She sought a declaratory judgment that the provisions were unconstitutional under both the United States and the Tennessee Constitutions. She also sought a permanent injunction against their enforcement.

The Chancellor ruled that the statutes did not violate the United States or Tennessee Constitutions and dismissed respondent's suit. App. 50. He determined that $ 2–7–111(b) was a content-neutral and reasonable time, place, and manner restriction; that the 100-foot boundary served a compelling state interest in protecting voters from interference, ha

Section 2–7–111(a) also provides for boundaries of 300 feet for counties within specified population ranges. Petitioner's predecessor Attorney General (an original defendant) opined that this distinction was unconstitutional under Art. XI, § 8, of the Tennessee Constitution. Tenn. Op. Atty. Gen. No. 87–185 (1987). While this issue was raised in the pleadings, the District Court held that respondent did not have standing to challenge the 300-foot boundaries because she was not a resident of any of those counties. The Tennessee Supreme Court did not reach the issue. Accordingly, the constitutionality of the 100-foot boundary is the only restriction before us.

Opinion of BLACKMUN, J.

rassment, and intimidation during the voting process; and that there was an alternative channel for respondent to exercise her free speech rights outside the 100-foot boundary. App. to Pet. for Cert. la.

The Tennessee Supreme Court, by a 4-to-1 vote, reversed. 802 S. W. 2d 210 (1990). The court first held that $2–7– 111(b) was content based “because it regulates a specific subject matter, the solicitation of votes and the display or distribution of campaign materials, and a certain category of speakers, campaign workers.” Id., at 213. The court then held that such a content-based statute could not be upheld unless (i) the burden placed on free speech rights is justified by a compelling state interest and (ii) the means chosen bear a substantial relation to that interest and are the least intrusive to achieve the State's goals. While the Tennessee Supreme Court found that the State unquestionably had shown a compelling interest in banning solicitation of voters and distribution of campaign materials within the polling place itself, it concluded that the State had not shown a compelling interest in regulating the premises around the polling place. Accordingly, the court held that the 100-foot limit was not narrowly tailored to protect the demonstrated interest. The court also held that the statute was not the least restrictive means to serve the State's interests. The court found less restrictive the current Tennessee statutes prohibiting interference with an election or the use of violence or intimidation to prevent voting. See Tenn. Code Ann. $82–19–101 and 2–19–115 (Supp. 1991). Finally, the court noted that if the State were able to show a compelling interest in preventing congestion and disruption at the entrances to polling places, a shorter radius “might perhaps pass constitutional muster.” 802 S. W. 2d, at 214.

Because of the importance of the issue, we granted certiorari. 499 U. S. 958 (1991). We now reverse the Tennessee Supreme Court's judgment that the statute violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Opinion of BLACKMUN, J.

III The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech .” This Court in Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U. S. 88, 95 (1940), said: “The freedom of speech ... which [is] secured by the First Amendment against abridgment by the United States, [is] among the fundamental personal rights and liberties which are secured to all persons by the Fourteenth Amendment against abridgment by a State.”

The Tennessee statute implicates three central concerns in our First Amendment jurisprudence: regulation of political speech, regulation of speech in a public forum, and regulation based on the content of the speech. The speech restricted by $2–7–111(b) obviously is political speech. “Whatever differences may exist about interpretations of the First Amendment, there is practically universal agreement that a major purpose of that Amendment was to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs.” Mills v. Alabama, 384 U. S., at 218. “For speech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government.” Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 U. S. 64, 74–75 (1964). Accordingly, this Court has recognized that “the First Amendment ‘has its fullest and most urgent application' to speech uttered during a campaign for political office.Eu v. San Francisco Cty. Democratic Central Comm., 489 U. S. 214, 223 (1989) (quoting Monitor Patriot Co. v. Roy, 401 U. S. 265, 272 (1971)).

The second important feature of $2–7–111(b) is that it bars speech in quintessential public forums. These forums include those places “which by long tradition or by government fiat have been devoted to assembly and debate,” such as parks, streets, and sidewalks. Perry Ed. Assn. v. Perry Local Educators' Assn., 460 U. S. 37, 45 (1983). "Such use

2 Testimony at trial established that at some Tennessee polling locations the campaign-free zone included sidewalks and streets adjacent to the polling places. See App. 23-24, 42. See also 802 S. W. 2d 210, 213 (1990).

Opinion of BLACKMUN, J.

of the streets and public places has, from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens.” Hague v. CIO, 307 U. S. 496, 515 (1939) (opinion of Roberts, J.). At the same time, however, expressive activity, even in a quintessential public forum, may interfere with other important activities for which the property is used. Accordingly, this Court has held that the government may regulate the time, place, and manner of the expressive activity, so long as such restrictions are content neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and leave open ample alternatives for communication. United States v. Grace, 461 U. S. 171, 177 (1983). See also Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U. S. 781, 791 (1989).

The Tennessee restriction under consideration, however, is not a facially content-neutral time, place, or manner restriction. Whether individuals may exercise their free speech rights near polling places depends entirely on whether their speech is related to a political campaign. The statute does not reach other categories of speech, such as commercial solicitation, distribution, and display. This Court has held that the First Amendment's hostility to content-based regulation extends not only to a restriction on a particular viewpoint, but also to a prohibition of public discussion of an entire topic. See, e.g., Consolidated Edison Co. of N. Y. v. Public Service Comm'n of N. Y., 447 U. S. 530, 537 (1980). Accord, Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Members of N. Y. State Crime Victims Bd., 502 U. S. 105, 116 (1991) (statute restricting speech about crime is content based).3

3 Content-based restrictions also have been held to raise Fourteenth Amendment equal protection concerns because, in the course of regulating speech, such restrictions differentiate between types of speech. See Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U. S. 92 (1972) (exemption of labor picketing from ban on picketing near schools violates Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection). See also City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U. S. 789, 816 (1984) (suggesting that exception for political campaign signs from general ordinance prohibiting posting of signs might entail constitutionally forbidden content discrimina

Opinion of BLACKMUN, J.

As a facially content-based restriction on political speech in a public forum, $ 2–7–111(b) must be subjected to exacting scrutiny: The State must show that the “regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and that it is narrowly drawn to achieve that end.” Perry Ed. Assn. v. Perry Local Educators' Assn., 460 U. S., at 45. Accord, Board of Airport Comm’rs of Los Angeles v. Jews for Jesus, Inc., 482 U. S. 569, 573 (1987); Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense & Ed. Fund, Inc., 473 U. S. 788, 800 (1985); United States v. Grace, 461 U. S., at 177.

Despite the ritualistic ease with which we state this nowfamiliar standard, its announcement does not allow us to avoid the truly difficult issues involving the First Amendment. Perhaps foremost among these serious issues are cases that force us to reconcile our commitment to free speech with our commitment to other constitutional rights embodied in government proceedings. See, e. g., Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U. S. 333, 361-363 (1966) (outlining restrictions on speech of trial participants that courts may impose to protect an accused's right to a fair trial). This case presents us with a particularly difficult reconciliation: the accommodation of the right to engage in political discourse with the right to vote—a right at the heart of our democracy.

IV

Tennessee asserts that its campaign-free zone serves two compelling interests. First, the State argues that its regulation serves its compelling interest in protecting the right of its citizens to vote freely for the candidates of their choice.

tion). Under either a free speech or equal protection theory, a contentbased regulation of political speech in a public forum is valid only if it can survive strict scrutiny. Carey v. Brown, 447 U. S. 455, 461-462 (1980).

4 See Piper v. Swan, 319 F. Supp. 908, 911 (ED Tenn. 1970) (purpose of regulation is to prevent intimidation of voters entering the polling place by political workers), writ of mandamus denied sub nom. Piper v. United States District Court, 401 U. S. 971 (1971).

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