Residency Restrictions Fall in 6th & 9th Circuit, Ohio Ban on Per Signature Pay Struck Down

Thu, Jan 22 2009 by Anonymous

As a case from Arizona concerning a ban on non-residents circulating petitions is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the High Court just last week denied the State of Ohio’s appeal of a federal court ruling that the state’s ban on per signature payments to petition circulators is unconstitutional.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader calls them “Jim Crow laws.” Yet, in the last three years, legislatures in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota have passed laws restricting the work of circulating a petition to state residents only.

Lawsuits stemming from Mr. Nader’s 2004 independent presidential run and state residency laws landed in two federal circuit courts in 2008. Three judge panels in both the federal Sixth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal overturned those residency laws in Ohio and Arizona, respectively, handing down unanimous 3-0 rulings.

The Ninth Circuit case, Nader v. Brewer, has now been appealed by Arizona Secretary of State Janice Brewer to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Sixth Circuit case concerning the Ohio law, Moore v. Brunner, has not been appealed.

Back in September, the federal Tenth Circuit heard oral arguments in an Oklahoma residency case, Yes on Term Limits v. Savage. A decision from that three judge panel is also expected in the next two to three months.

Another petition regulation popular with legislatures is outlawing the practice of compensating petition circulators on the basis of the number of signatures they gather.

Supporters of these so-called “pay-per-signature” bans argue that a per signature payment encourages circulators to forge signatures or to gather signatures of dubious validity. Opponents contend that paying by the hour costs initiative proponents dearly as it allows employees to not work diligently at gathering signatures and still get paid.

The U.S. Supreme Court just denied the State of Ohio appeal in the case Deters v. Citizens for Tax Reform (referred to in the cert petition as Ohio v. Citizens for Tax Reform). Thus, the High Court leaves in tact a federal district court and the Sixth Circuit’s decision striking down the Ohio ban.

Attorney David Langdon represented Citizens for Tax Reform. Citizens in Charge Foundation entered the fray in this case by funding Langdon’s reply brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, wherein he argued against the High Court granting cert.

Unlike the Ohio ban, similar restrictions have been upheld in the Eighth and Ninth Circuits regarding bans in North Dakota and Oregon, respectively. The Oregon law is facing a second challenge.

Both residency and payment per signature restrictions are likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the big question is: when? The High Court could take the current case on residency from Arizona now pending or it may not get involved for quite some time.