Federal Court Strikes Down Nebraska Petition Law

Wed, Aug 31 2011 by Paul Jacob

In a decision released late yesterday, Federal Judge Joseph Bataillon struck down Nebraska’s initiative law requiring petition circulators to be residents of the state, declaring the statutory provision “unconstitutional” as a violation of the First Amendment rights of Nebraskans.

The decision was a surprise to many observers. Although in recent years residency laws have been struck down unanimously by three separate federal circuit courts (Sixth, Ninth and Tenth), there is an Eight Circuit case from a decade ago (Initiative & Referendum Institute v. Jaeger), which upheld a North Dakota residency law. When plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction in this case, Judge Bataillon denied it and signaled that the Jaeger case would be controlling.

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