NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Supreme Court's Decision On Initiatives May Be Blow To "Campaign Reform"

January 13, 1999

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down an effort to limit the number of initiatives that can appear on state ballots. In the 6-3 decision, the Court extolled the First Amendment value of uninhibited "communication with voters."

Legal scholars wondered if the decision implied that the Court might view negatively efforts by advocates of campaign reform to limit political speech through limits on contributions to political campaigns.

  • The decision in Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation restated the Court's long-held view that political messages should be delivered free of government- imposed obstacles.
  • It struck down provisions of Colorado state law requiring people who circulate petitions to be registered Colorado voters and wear badges identifying themselves by name, and that sponsoring organizations employing paid petitioners include in monthly and final reports the name, address and compensation of each worker.
  • Twenty-four states -- most of them in the West and Midwest -- provide for voter referenda.

The court ruling came on an appeal by Colorado officials of a 1997 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in a case brought by the American Constitutional Law Foundation. Colorado moved earlier and has gone further than other states in regulating how initiatives are placed on the ballot -- and the case was followed closely by states considering such restrictions.

Source: Linda Greenhouse, "Court Turns Back an Effort to Limit Ballot Initiatives," New York Times, January 13, 1998.


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