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Court Upholds Ruling on Gathering Signatures for Candidates

Connecticut can no longer require ballot petition circulators to be state residents. (Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons)
Connecticut can no longer require ballot petition circulators to be state residents. (Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons)
August 12, 2016

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Third-party candidates should have an easier time getting their names onto Connecticut ballots after a ruling in federal court. Connecticut is one of the few states that has kept a ban on people from out-of-state collecting signatures to put candidates on election ballots. But this week, a U.S. District Court decided the ban violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

Dan Barrett, legal director with the ACLU in Connecticut called it a win for all third-party political candidates.

"It will mean that parties like the Libertarian Party, which was the plaintiff in the case, will be able to hire the people that it sees most fit to go out and collect signatures for the petitions," he said.

The state had argued that requiring signature-gatherers to be state residents would make them more readily available if the validity of the signatures is challenged.

But Barrett pointed out that having every signature validated is as important to the party collecting them as it is to the state.

"The party itself will end up asking its contractors in the future to make themselves available if a dispute arises later," he added.

He said federal appeals courts around the country have ruled that residency requirements don't address the issue of defending challenged signatures.

And Barrett noted that the ruling makes it easier for any third party that needs to gather signatures to get its candidate onto a state ballot.

"The ruling will benefit them," he said. "The judgment forbids the Secretary of State from enforcing that provision of Connecticut law."

The final judgment, issued Wednesday, reflects a preliminary ruling in the case that was handed down in January.

The full ruling can be read here.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT