Residency Requirements for Petition Circulators

Mar 20, 2013

The ACLU and the Libertarian Party have teamed up against Virginia to block a state law that requires candidate-petition circulators to be residents of the Commonwealth. 

A federal judge has already ruled in favor of the ACLU-Libertarian position.  ACLU attorneys believe if the state wins this appeal, it could prevent third-parties from gaining ground in the Commonwealth.

The Virginia Attorney General's office argued that allowing out-of-state residents to circulate petitions to get candidates on the ballot could open the floodgates for election fraud.  

Solicitor General Duncan Getchell told the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Virginia can now easily verify if circulators meet requirements. He also said tracking down and prosecuting out-of-state residents who commit fraud is more challenging than it is with residents.

But ACLU attorney Rebecca Glenberg countered that the law not only restricts free speech rights, but presumes that someone would attempt fraud—and is not based on actual cases. She said the major parties already have an advantage, but this law is a barrier for third-parties and candidates in general.
"This restriction limits the pool of available people who can get out there and circulate petitions and thereby get out a candidate's message. And, so that has an impact on every candidate I believe, and will certainly have an impact on future elections," said Glenberg.
Darryl Bonner, a professional petition-circulator from Pennsylvania, sued because he wanted to use non-residents for last year's election. Texas Governor Rick Perry filed a similar suit last year.