Petition-proponent disclosure requirement is unconstitutional: Appeals Court

Petition-proponent disclosure requirement is unconstitutional: Appeals Court

The election law that requires ballot initiative sponsors to disclose their identities on the petitions they circulate for signatures is unconstitutional, a California appeals court ruled on Monday.

Overturning the California election law, a divided federal appeals court panel declared that compelling sponsors of ballot initiatives to make disclosures violate the First Amendment right to anonymous speech.

Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain cited two U. S. Supreme Court rulings that overturned Colorado's law requiring signature gatherers to wear badges and an Ohio rule that prevented anonymous campaign leaflets, and said the petition-proponent disclosure requirement was unlawful.

But Judge Susan Graber disagreed with other two judges of the panel, and pointed out that requiring identification helps voters make a better informed choice before signing a petition asking to qualify a measure for the ballot.

Dissenting from the panel, Graber wrote, "The government has an essential interest in preserving an electoral process that allows voters to know to whom they are delegating lawmaking power when signing a particular petition."

However, the full court agreed that only people can sponsor ballot measures, not corporations or organizations.

A spokesperson for California Attorney General Kamala Harris said that the court's ruling was under consideration; and that a decision whether to appeal the ruling was yet to be taken.

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