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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, 354 U. S. 484 (1957). Although First Amendment protections are not confined to 'the exposition of ideas,' Winters v. New York, 333 U. S. 507, 333 U. S. 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, 384 U. S. 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, 376 U. S. 270 (1964). In a republic where the people are sovereign, the ability of the citizenry to make informed ...

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