Election 2012

Judge Voids Virginia Restrictions on Signature Gatherers

It's unconstitutional to ban out-of-staters from gathering signatures on behalf of political candidates, says a federal judge


RICHMOND—Virginia's law prohibiting out-of-state residents from circulating petitions on behalf of third-party presidential candidates is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney said the restriction violates the First Amendment and is not narrowly tailored to promote the compelling state interest of preventing election fraud.

"The First Amendment places a premium on political speech, particularly speech about political change," Gibney wrote in Monday's opinion. By imposing a state residency requirement on petition circulators, Virginia "deprives non-residents of a means to engage in core political speech and reduces the quantity of such speech available to its residents."