A California law that requires the sponsors of ballot initiatives to identify themselves on the petitions they circulate to voters violates the constitutional law to speak anonymously, a divided federal appeals court ruled Monday.

“Forced disclosures of this kind are significant encroachments on First Amendment rights,” the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in a 2-1 decision.

Signatures for a referendum aimed at blocking the expansion of a grocery store were thrown out under a new interpretation of signature requirements. In December the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in Jane Doe v. the Montgomery County Board of Elections that voters must sign a referendum petition with the exact name they used on their voter registration, including their middle name or initial. Proponents of the referendum have critized the Court’s decistion and are attempting to ressurrect the effort.

Today the Texas Senate had a hearing on Bill 690, which significantly increases the number of signatures needed to get an initiative on the local ballot and creates an unconstitutional hurdle to the process.

Critics of the legislations, rumored to have been requested by the Austin Chamber of Commerce, are worried that the new hurdles will restrict citizens from placing an item on the ballot by making it too hard and expensive for an average citizen.  Local activists are worried that they, the “little guy” will become a non-entity if this legislation passes.

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.

Citizens in Maine have united in protest against two unconstitutional bills currently moving through the Maine legislature that would severely limit their first amendment rights. Several grassroots activists and community organizers are calling on the legislature to act on LD 28 and LD 530 and protect Maine citizens


Like other areas of American law, the regulations surrounding the ballot initiative process are heavily affected by court decisions. Oftentimes a regulation is listed in the initiative statutes, but it has been struck down or altered by a state or federal court. In the past courts have struck down bans on paying petition circulators, paying circulators by the signature, requiring circulators to be state residents, requiring signatures be gathered over a certain geographical area, and several other restrictions.