Tuesday, June 24, 2014

CA: Ninth US Circuit Court rules against sponsor IDs on ballot initiatives

A California law that requires the sponsors of ballot initiatives to identify themselves on the petitions they circulate to voters violates the constitutional law to speak anonymously, a divided federal appeals court ruled Monday.

"Forced disclosures of this kind are significant encroachments on First Amendment rights," the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in a 2-1 decision.

It's not hard for the public to find out who's behind a proposed initiative, the court said - the names must be filed with the state or city elections office and published in a newspaper of general circulation.

But requiring sponsors' names to appear on initiative petitions violates the right of anonymous speech, Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain said in the majority opinion, joined by Judge Carlos Bea.

O'Scannlain cited a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Ohio's ban on anonymous campaign leaflets, and a 1999 high court ruling overturning Colorado's requirement that petition-circulators wear name tags. Both rulings said anonymity can protect speakers from harassment and focuses public attention on the message rather than the messenger.

James Bopp, lawyer for the initiative sponsors, said the court had properly condemned the state law requiring sponsors' names on petitions as one of the "burdens that might chill the people's speech."



Anonymous said...

Given the harassment of Prop 8 contributors the protection of anonymity is probably more important now than it has ever been since the Revolution.

Stan B said...

The 9th Circus gets another one Right. Pretty soon, they may restore their reputation....but I'm not holding my breath....

Dean said...

7:57 - in many instances persecution would be a more accurate term than harassment.

Bird of Paradise said...

Stan. Don't bet on it this is the 9th Circus court the nations more overturned court in the nation