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Nebraska federal judge upholds laws on petition circulators and ballot access

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July 2, 2010

By Kyle Maichle

OMAHA, Nebraska: Federal judge Joseph Bataillon dismissed a lawsuit on July 2, 2010, against Nebraska's residency requirement for petition circulators and signature requirements for independent candidates[1].

The American Civil Liberties Union along with the Citizens in Charge Foundation argued that the requirements add undue burdens to citizens seeking to qualify ballot initiatives in Nebraska. In addition, attorneys for the ACLU argued that the current signature requirements for independent candidates make it difficult to seek ballot access. Also, attorneys further argued two laws passed in 2007 and 2008 violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on the basis of free speech[1].

The residency requirement now mandates any petition circulator to be a registered elector in the State of Nebraska. Also, the independent candidate signature requirements mandates any independent candidate to get 4,000 signatures to qualify for a statewide race. Also, all independent candidates must have 50 signatures in 31 of the state's 93 counties[1].

Judge Batallion stated in his ruling that he found no evidence that the laws have added undue burdens to citizens seeking to qualify ballot initiatives or prospective independent candidates gaining ballot access[1].

Bryan Sells, an Attorney representing the ACLU, told The Associated Press that he was disappointed with the judge's ruling. However, he did not state if he would appeal the ruling to the Denver-based Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. A spokesman for Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale did not issue a formal statement on the judge's ruling[1].

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