ACLU of RI Appeals Disqualification of State Legislator From Primary Election
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PROVIDENCE, RI – – The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court on behalf of a representative of the state legislature who was unfairly removed from the primary election ballot by the state Board of Elections.
The Board of Elections removed two-term Representative Aisha Abdullah-Odiase from the ballot because one of her nomination papers allegedly contained signatures not witnessed by her. She was disqualified even though her other nomination papers, which were not challenged, had more than enough signatures to qualify her for the ballot.
“”Once there were 50 valid signatures, the Board’s job was done,”” said John W. Dineen, the ACLU of Rhode Island volunteer attorney who filed the brief. “”The Board has no authority to subjectively judge candidates.””
The ACLU argues in the brief that the Board’s decision to remove Abdullah-Odiase from the ballot violates her First Amendment rights as well as state election law and Rhode Island Supreme Court opinions interpreting those laws. Specifically, the brief points to court decisions emphasizing that “”one invalid affidavit does not invalidate the remaining affidavits.””
The Board came to its decision by a 4-2 vote.
“”Apparently, the Board of Elections, with little discussion, wrongly held that all of Representative Abdullah-Odiase’s separately certified nomination papers should be viewed as just one document, and that if one sheet was invalid, they all were,”” said Dineen.
The ACLU’s appeal asks the state Supreme Court to issue an order reversing the Board of Elections decision and requiring the Secretary of State to list Abdullah-Odiase on the ballot. The ACLU of Rhode Island will be seeking an emergency hearing on the request this week.
“”I believe that access to the ballot is very important, especially for the under-represented,”” said Representative Abdullah-Odiase. “”Numerous roadblocks were erected to deny me equal access to the ballot. Such roadblocks needlessly hamper not only my individual civil rights, but the rights of people in my community who deserve to enjoy the benefits of a democratic society.””
Abdullah-Odiase’s petition and supporting memorandum may be found online at http://archive.aclu.org/court/begin_pet.pdf and http://archive.aclu.org/court/begin_mem.pdf
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