Maine town may overturn ban on political activity

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June 23

FARMINGTON, Maine: Richard P. Flewelling, an attorney with the Maine Municipal Association, is calling on political leaders in Farmington, Maine to reverse the city's policy that prohibits political activity on town property.

On June 9, 2009, Farmington's town leaders passed the ban in response to a person trying to gather signatures for a petition seeking to repeal Maine's same-sex marriage law during an outdoor concert. Flewelling made his case clear in a public statement, writing, "any governmental restrictions on the exercise of free speech are subject to stringent judicial scrutiny...In my opinion, a blanket prohibition on all political activity on town property cannot possibly meet these constitutional tests."Moreover, Arnold Clark, director of the Center for Constitutional Law said unequivocally that the selectman's actions are "an unabashed trampling" of resident's right to free speech.[1]

Town officials have come to the committee's defense in light of these recent objections. Town manager Richard Davis defended the council's actions, saying "Selectmen have the authority to set policy as they have control, custody of town property."Stephan Bunker, chairman of the Board of Selectman, said, "there are plenty of other opportunities and places in town. The park should be free of those types of distractions."

The controversial policy in its entirety reads as follows:

"It is the policy of the Town of Farmington to prohibit any political activity, including but not limited to, petitioning, signature gathering, and placement of campaign signs on any property owned by the Town of Farmington. The only exceptions to this policy are those activities that are allowed in accordance with state law (21-A M.R.S.A.) at the Community Center on Election Days."[2]

See also

Ballotpedia News
  1. The Morning Sentinel June 23, 2009
  2. The Daily Bulldog June 12, 2009