Requirement that petition circulators be state residents violates First Amendment, civil liberties group saysRichmond, VA– The ACLU of Virginia today filed a brief in court in support of Texas Governor Rick Perry and three other Republican candidates who are asking a federal judge to order the State Board of Elections to put their names on the ballot for the Virginia Republican Party primary. The ACLU brief argues that the state violated the candidates’ rights when it prohibited them from using out-of-state petition circulators to gather the 10,000 signatures required for ballot access.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the petition process is political speech that is protected by the Constitution,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “For that reason, we do not believe the state of Virginia can impose residential requirements on petitioners gathering signatures for political candidates.”
“Petition circulators must explain their candidate’s positions to the electorate, and persuade voters that the candidate deserves to be on the ballot,” added Willis. “Reducing the number of available petition circulators by imposing a residency requirement limits this important means for candidates to get their message across.”
The ACLU brief argues that the residency requirement not only violates the free speech rights of candidates, but of petition circulators, voters, and political parties, as well.
“Non-residents who wish to circulate petitions for a candidate are deprived of the ability to do so,” said Willis. “Voters are deprived of the information and ideas that these circulators would provide. And the Republican Party is unfairly limited in its choices for a nominee when valid candidates are unable to obtain the required signatures.”
Perry filed his lawsuit on December 27, 2011, four days after learning that he would be denied a place on the Republican Party primary ballot in Virginia because he had not received enough petition signatures. Three additional candidates – former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Senator Rick Santorum quickly joined Perry in the lawsuit. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday, January 13, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. before Federal District Court Judge John A. Gibney, Jr.
The ACLU brief, authored by ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg, can be found online at: https://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/20120110Perryamicus-distct.pdf.
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, (804) 644-8022