Privacy of Petition Signatures?

W.Va. justices hear appeal about petition drives
Wednesday September 8, 2010
by The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of West Virginia’s Supreme Court cited a recent ruling from the nation’s highest court during Wednesday arguments over the Jefferson County clerk’s refusal to release petition drive signatures.

June’s near-unanimous decision allowed the release of petition signatures in Washington state.

Several of the West Virginia justices also referred to a state law that considers any records kept by a county commission as public.
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Constitution Party of West Virginia wins free speech victory

The Rutherford Institute Wins Court Victory for West Virginia Constitution Party’s Right to Circulate Petitions at a State Park

ELKINS, W.Va. —Judge John Preston Bailey of the Northern District of West Virginia has ruled that a First Amendment lawsuit dealing with the right of a political group to circulate petitions and collect signatures at a state park can move forward. Officials with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR), which manages and controls the park, had asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. Filed in April 2008 by Rutherford Institute attorneys on behalf of members of the Constitution Party of West Virginia, the lawsuit poses a constitutional challenge to a ban on politics in West Virginia state parks.

“Americans have a First Amendment right to the freedom of political expression,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “We cannot allow the government to silence. We have a right to be heard.” Read more

Constitution Party wins constitutional fight

ELKINS – In a constitutional triumph for the Constitution Party, U.S. District Judge John Bailey ruled that citizens can circulate petitions on West Virginia public lands.

On June 3, he held that West Virginia legislators violated First Amendment rights when they banned soliciting in state parks and other recreational areas.

He did not disturb a ban on hawking, peddling or carrying on business in parks.

His ruling will allow the Constitution Party of West Virginia to circulate petitions at National Hunting and Fishing Days in Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park.

Park rangers chased party leaders away from the event in 2007.

The party sued Division of Natural Resources chief Frank Jezioro, who responded that they should have applied for a permit like other exhibitors at the event.

Bailey disagreed, ruling that no one needs a permit to solicit in any park on any day.

He found that the ban acted as prior restraint on expression in a public forum.

“Any prior restraint on expression in a public forum is subject to strict scrutiny,” he wrote.

He wrote that the ban “fails this strict scrutiny test as it is not narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest.”

Read the full article at the West Virginia Record.

WV Ballot Access Victory

On November 3, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Goodwin, a Clinton appointee, ruled that West Virginia may not charge a filing fee for declared write-in candidates. Phillips v Hechler, civ 6:00-894. The ruling upset a law that had been passed in 1993. The basis for the ruling is that the purpose of a filing fee is to keep a ballot from being crowded with too many names. That rationale has no application for write-in candidates.

Gavel.The case was filed by Howard Phillips (Constitution Party presidential candidate), who was unable to qualify for the ballot, and who therefore depended on write-in votes in West Virginia. If the law had not been overturned, he would have had to pay $4,000 just to have his write-ins tallied (the fee is 1% of the annual salary of the office). The state has not yet said if it will appeal.

(From Ballot Access News.)