Ficker v. Montgomery County
Ficker v. Montgomery County is a 1985 ruling of a federal court, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, that found that a provision in the Maryland election law that prohibited paying individuals to collect signatures on a referendum petition violated the United States Constitution.
The case was brought by Robin Ficker. He sought to place an initiative on the November 6, 1984 ballot in Montgomery County that would establish single-member districts for the county commission rather than an at-large method of electing commissioners. 10,000 signatures were required to qualify a county initiative at that time.
Ficker paid $2,637.30 to twelve circulators who helped collect the required signatures. The initiative qualified for the ballot and was defeated. Ficker then told the press he intended to try to place the same reform on the 1986 ballot.
Ficker was contacted in late November or early December 1984 by the Maryland State Special Prosecutor's Office after those remarks to the press, and was advised that paying people to collect signatures was illegal and that if he continued to do so, they would prosecute him under the Maryland Elections Code. At that time, the Maryland code contained a provision that "prohibited the payment of money or other inducements to any individual for securing signatures on a petition to place an initiative or referendum on a county or state ballot."
The ruling is notable partly because the judge wrote, "The record indicates that volunteers alone are insufficient to rally sufficient popular support to qualify an initiative for the ballot. The court does not contest the power of the state to condition ballot eligibility upon a prior demonstration of public support....However, the court does not accept the State's contention that it may impose expenditure limitations on the process by which that support is solicited."
- Text of Ficker v. Montgomery County (scroll to page 7)