Mich. Residency Law Challenged in Federal Court

Mon, Feb 10 2014 by Neal Hobson

Today, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan filed suit in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of Citizens in Charge and others to overturn the state’s residency requirement as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment rights of Michigan citizens and also a violation of the right of non-residents to be treated equally in employment opportunities in the state.

The lawsuit also seeks either a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of Michigan’s residency law while its ultimate fate is being fully determined in this court proceeding.

The case is titled Humane Society Legislative Fund, et al, v. Johnson, et al. Joining HSLF as plaintiffs are:  Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, a state ballot measure committee; Citizens in Charge; Put the Citizens in Charge, a state ballot measure committee; and Sherri Ferrell, a professional petition circulator residing in Florida, who wants an equal chance to work in Michigan. In addition to Ruth Johnson, Michigan’s Secretary of State, there are two other named defendants in the suit: Colleen Pero, chair of the Board of State Canvassers, and Bill Schuette, the state’s attorney general. All three are being sued in their official capacity as state officials responsible for enforcing the residency barrier to petitioning.

The complaint (linked below) argues in part:

*  “Michigan’s state residency requirement for petition circulators significantly reduces the pool of circulators available to collect signatures … thereby severely limiting the abilities of HSLF, KMWP, CIC, and Put the Citizens in Charge to disseminate their political views, to choose the most effective means of conveying their message, to associate in a meaningful way with those who would solicit petition signatures from Michigan voters, and to gain access to the ballot.”

*  “Michigan’s state residency requirement for petition circulators severely restricts the abilities of non-Michigan-residents – including volunteer members of HSLF and Sherri Ferrell – to engage in core political speech in Michigan and to associate with the organizations and Michigan residents who support the initiatives identified above.”

*  “Michigan’s state residency requirement for petition circulators discriminates against out-of-state professional petition circulators on its face, discriminates against interstate commerce to favor in-state economic interests of professional petition circulators over the economic interests of out-of-state professional petition circulators …”

The complaint also notes that, “Circulating petitions for ballot access is core political speech where First Amendment protection is said to be ‘at its zenith.’ Accordingly, laws that impose state residency requirements for petition circulators have been struck down as unconstitutional all over the country — namely by the federal appeals courts for the Fourth, Sixth, Ninth and Tenth Circuits, and by federal district courts in Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, Ohio and Virginia.”

Humane Society Legislative Fund v. Johnson – Complaint (13 pages)

http://www.ballotboxnews.com/ACLU.Petitions-2.9.14 Complaint.pdf

Humane Society Legislative Fund v. Johnson – Motion for TRO and/or Preliminary Injunction and Brief in Support (102 pages)

http://www.ballotboxnews.com/ACLU.Petitions-2.10.14 Motion for TRO and PI.pdf