circulator restrictions

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.

The powers that be at the Genesee County Parks Department don’t seem to be familiar with the freedom of speech guaranteed under the First Amendment. Fortunately for Michiganders, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is.

NE FlagNebraskans’ petition rights have survived another legislative session. With the deadline to make it out of committee passed, no more legislation concerning the initiative process is pending.

On February 19, Judge David R. Thompson died at the age of 80. He was a semi-retired judge on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. He was based in San Diego. He had been appointed to the 9th circuit in 1985. In 2000 he wrote the decision that invalidated a Washington state law that required the names and addresses of paid circulators to be made public, by their employers, on a monthly basis. That case was called WIN v Rippie. His decision said,

For the second time in as many weeks the Denver Post has highlighted the deep freezeCar that has overtaken Colorado’s petition process. Colorado citizens are now caught up in a whirlwind of red tape, bad laws, and litigation that may spell the end of initiative rights in the state, but citizens are fighting back, and the media is starting to take notice.

Boulder City, Nevada officials seem to think repeatedly suing their own citizens is a good idea. In his weekly Townhall column on Sunday, Paul Jacob discusses the situation:

Public officials cannot simply throw dissenters into a gulag and govern by decree. But the city governors in Boulder City, Nevada, have found the next best thing.

Sue the people.

Regularly and repeatedly.

As a method of effectuating an oligarchy, what could be more American?

Snowy StreetsMost restrictions on petitioning and initiative rights have some type of chilling effect on actual usage of the petition process. In Colorado, one provision of a malicious 2009 law, House Bill 1326, has resulted in such a deep freeze that it may put an end to the state’s citizen initiative process entirely. Already two victims of HB 1326 are faced with losing their homes to pay for their defense against false and ridiculous allegations of ”˜fraud.’

A hearing was held this morning in the federal trial of Bernbeck v Gale. Arguments presented by Nebraska Attorney, David Domina will detail how restrictions placed on Nebraska’s initiative and referendum process have violated Kent Bernbeck’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

After a hearing last week in Omaha, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon denied a request from the state chapter of the Libertarian Party to block enforcement of Nebraska’s ban on people from other states helping collect signatures on a petition. Relying on the flawed 2001 decision by the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in IRI v.

Nebraska’s Secretary of State says he has “every confidence” that the state’s requirement that people who collect signatures on a petition live in the state will be upheld in federal court. The only problem is, residency requirements have been ruled unconstitutional at least eleven times since 1997. Only once, in North Dakota, did a court uphold a residency requirement, and later courts criticized that ruling as improperly decided. In light of this, one really has to wonder where the secretary’s confidence comes from.

Ballot Box

As I anticipated, yesterday’s work session in the Maine Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee discussion centered on Senator Seth Berry’s bill, the amended version of LD 1690 (LD 1690-A), that contains provisions meant to curtail the ballot initiative and People’s Veto referendum rights of Mainers. LD 1730, with similar provisions, was also slated to be discussed but was not.

At a time when Californians’ ballot initiative & referendum rights have been under sustained attack, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed three bills that he believes would harm grassroots petitioning efforts.

Arizona Bill Advances

Tue, Jun 16 2009 — Source: Ballot Access News

A bill has advanced past comittee in the Arizona Senate that would continue to prohibit people from other states from circulating a petition, despite a federal court ruling last year stiking that ban down. The bill would also take away the ability of petition circulators to assist elderly or disabled voters with filling out a petition.

Read the story from Ballot Access News

Secretary of State Kim Brown is pushing for legislation that would impose new requirements on petition circulators. Brown says she is aiming to insure a clean process while critics note that the proposed regulations would largely cripple the process…

Read the story on OregonLive

House Speaker Terrance Carroll has introduced legislation that would impose new regulations on petition circulators. The bill mainly takes aim at paid petitioning, which critics claim invites fraud…

Read the story from the Colorado Independent