Federal Court: First Amendment Applies to Michigan Recall Petitions Too

Thu, Dec 24 2009 by Anonymous

United States District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell has made Michigan the ninth state to see a requirement that campaign workers who circulate petitions be residents of the state struck down. In 2008 federal appeals courts struck down residency requirements in Ohio, Arizona and Oklahoma. Residency requirements of some kind have previously been ruled unconstitutional in California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York.

Though the case related specifically to workers on a recall petition drive, Judge Bell noted that residency residency requirements of any kind violate citizen’s rights:

The Court finds that the registration and residency restrictions for recall-petition circulators are just as burdensome as the unquestionably unconstitutional registration and residency restrictions on initiative- and candidate-petition circulators because the restrictions substantially decrease the pool of potential circulators.[Emphasis ours]

The unconstitutionality of residency requirements looks to have become a matter of settled law. Despite that fact, 14 states still require people who circulate petitions statewide to be state residents, and Michigan officials are may still appeal the decision.

On a related note, residency is one of the restrictions challenged by Citizens in Charge in a lawsuit they recently filed against several unconstitutional aspects of Nebraska’s petitioning laws.