residency requirement

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.

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.’

U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer on Friday put a temporary hold on part of a controversial 2009 bill restricting, among other things, how and when voters can be asked to sign a petition. You can read the judge’s order here.

Missouri State Rep. Mike ParsonMike Parson hates voters, that is the only thing we can conclude. Why else would he try year after year to gut Missouri voters’ ballot initiative process?

United States District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell has made Michigan the ninth state to see a requirement that campaign workers who circulate petitions be residents of the state struck down. In 2008 federal appeals courts struck down residency requirements in Ohio, Arizona and Oklahoma. Residency requirements of some kind have previously been ruled unconstitutional in California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York.

After blogging yesterday about some of the petty ways initiative opponents try to block people from excercising their voting rights by throwing out their signatures on a petition, I started thinking about the wider struggle to protect those rights. Special interests and many politicians simply don’t like the initiative process because it threatens their hold on power. The last thing they want is for you, the voter, to have a say in how their government is run.

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

Ballot Access News reports that Arizona Senate Bill 1091 has been assigned to a committee and will probably get a hearing.

The Unites States Supreme Court denied Arizona’s request for an appeal in the case Nader v. Brewer. Last year the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Arizona’s law requiring petition circulators to be state residents. Thirteen other states had asked the high court to overturn the decistion. Similar laws in Ohio and Oklahoma were invalidated last year in the 6th and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeal.

A few weeks back we sent out an Action Alert about a bill in the Maine House that would require petition circulators to be registered voters. CICF sent a letter to the bill’s sponsor and the rest of the state legislature informing them that requiring circulators to be registered voters violates the First Amendment. We then worked with local Maine activists to get testimony against the bill in the upcoming hearing.

Recent news reports indicate that efforts to reduce the number of bills submitted by Maine legislators have been successful — with the number of bills down 23 percent from the previous two-year session. But a close look at one bill moving forward this year illustrates that Maine’s legislative process remains fundamentally flawed.