Libertarian Party of Connecticut, with Help of ACLU, Wins Ballot Access Petitioner Lawsuit
State practice of requiring signature-gatherers to be residents of Connecticut overturned by U.S. District Court judge
Ballot access is a long, complicated, expensive slog for third parties and independent candidates, and states often throw silly spanners into the works just to make it more complicated.
The state of Connecticut, for example, had a law requiring that anyone who collected signatures for ballot access has to be a resident of the state.
Since the ballot petitioner economy is more or less built on itinerant activist pros or semipros, this requirement made the already difficult job of ballot access even harder.
The Libertarian Party of Connecticut sued over the law, with the help of the ACLU of Connecticut, and won this week.
Excerpt from the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Janet C. Hall:
the challenged petitioning statutes, which require that petition circulators in Connecticut be residents of the State of Connecticut, contravene the Plaintiff's First Amendment rights. The Court has also determined that the loss of First Amendment rights of Plaintiff constitutes an irreparable injury, that the balance of equities favors an injunction, and that an injunction is in the public interest. In light of this Court's conclusion of unconstitutionality of a portion of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-453e that requires a petition circulator to be a resident of Connecticut…[the state is forbidden to continue enforcing only those aspects of the law relating to the collector being a state resident]
An ACLU of Connecticut press release, which reads in part:
Political parties typically hire professionals, including those from other states, to gather signatures, but Connecticut's law forbids the use of these out-of-state circulators. In today's ruling, U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall called this law "a severe burden" on the Libertarian Party of Connecticut's speech.
"This decision is good news for free speech," said Dan Barrett, the ACLU of Connecticut's legal director and an attorney in the case. "The Libertarian Party deserves the chance to deliver its message by hiring signature-gatherers based on their qualifications, not their zip codes. Today's injunction is in line with what other federal courts across the country have said: restricting parties from hiring out-of-state circulators violates the First Amendment. We look forward to moving ahead with the case and winning a favorable final judgment."