Libertarian Party Joins ACLU Challenge To Nebraska Petition Laws
Onerous Petition Laws Keep Alternative Parties Off Ballot
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OMAHA, NE – The Libertarian Party joined an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit today challenging burdensome petition laws that unlawfully keep alternative parties off the Nebraska ballot. The lawsuit, originally filed in December 2009 by the ACLU and ACLU Nebraska, charges that the laws limit political speech, violating Nebraska candidates’ and voters’ free speech, equal protection and due process rights.
The statutes the Libertarian Party is challenging require all petition circulators to be residents of Nebraska and that “Scarlet Letter” language appear on all petitions in large red type, indicating whether the petition gatherers are paid or volunteer, which dissuades many voters from signing petitions. The Libertarian Party is asking the court to immediately block the statutes so it can petition to be on the Nebraska ballot in 2010.
“Modern political reality means that alternative parties often need to use paid and out-of-state circulators to gather signatures,” said Bryan Sells, an attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “Nebraska’s restrictions on these methods serve no real purpose except to protect the existing parties from competition from candidates with diverse political perspectives and to limit the options of Nebraska voters.”
The ban on out-of-state signature gatherers was enacted in 2008 over the governor’s veto. The law reduces the pool of petition circulators, making it more difficult for alternative parties to get on the ballot. Combined with Nebraska’s other petition requirements, it has effectively shielded the major parties from competition.
“We have a significant and vocal membership in this state, but the unfair requirements have effectively kept us out of Nebraska’s political process,” said Gene Siadek of the Nebraska Libertarian Party. “It’s hard not to see them as a deliberate effort on the part of legislators to keep alternative parties and independent candidates off the ballot.”
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska.
Attorneys on the case, Citizens in Charge Foundation, Inc., et al. v. Secretary of State of Nebraska John A. Gale, are Sells and Laughlin McDonald of the ACLU Voting Rights Project and Amy Miller of ACLU Nebraska.
A copy of the complaint-in-intervention is available at: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/citizens-charge-foundation-inc-et-al-v-secretary-state-nebraska-john-gale-complaint-in
More information about the ACLU Voting Rights Project is available at: www.aclu.org/voting-rights
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