CLT Joins Federal Lawsuit to Defend Petition Process

Many of you volunteers have questioned why, all of a sudden, you are being thrown off U.S. post office property while you are trying to collect signatures on our petition. This never used to happen, you accurately note.

That's because postal regulations have been reinterpreted!

Some months ago CLT joined with the national Initiative & Referendum Institute as a plaintiff to challenge this "reinterpretation" in federal court as a violation of our constitutional rights, filed in Washington, DC yesterday.

Teamed up with the I&R Institute, CLT now has support across the nation to protect and defend our state initiative and referendum rights from the growing movement across the country to destroy the process of direct citizen participation in its government.

Also below is the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune's recent view of the Registry fees increases. It's not over yet, folks, trust me. If we have the continued support of our membership, we will resume our constitutional challenge of fee increases in the days ahead -- settled out of court, we thought forever, with the Weld Administration back in 1992.

Stay tuned, and redouble your efforts to get those  signatures! The clock's running out; we've only got three weeks from today left before the drop-dead deadline!

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Chip Ford

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If you were NOT a CLT volunteer petitioner last fall and want to help us help you now

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M. Dane Waters
Initiative & Referendum Institute
(202) 429-5539

John Ferguson
Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman
(202) 424-7505

Arthur Spitzer
ACLU / Washington, DC
(202) 457-0800

The Initiative & Referendum Institute,
ACLU, and Coalition of Citizen Groups
Sue U.S. Postal Service Over Free-Speech Violations

(Washington, D.C.) -- A coalition of citizen groups and individuals from across the political spectrum filed a legal complaint today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The suit seeks to overturn the USPS regulation prohibiting citizens from collecting petition signatures on initiative petitions on postal property. The new postal regulation severely limits the ability of citizens around the country to place issues before their fellow voters.

M. Dane Waters, President and Founder of the Initiative & Referendum Institute -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational and research organization dedicated to the study and protection of the initiative and referendum process and the group spearheading the lawsuit -- declared "Today, citizens across the political spectrum are coming together to further democracy, protect the initiative and referendum process, uphold the First Amendment, and overturn an unconstitutional and unnecessary government restriction that limits the ability of voters to reform their government. This lawsuit is essential to the preservation of self-government."

The lawsuit has its origin in a June 1998 change in postal policy regarding petitioning on postal property. Until the change, citizens were allowed to gather signatures for ballot issues in front of all post offices, so long as the petitioners were not disruptive to postal business. The new policy prohibits "soliciting signatures on petitions, polls or surveys" in front of any post office. As a result, citizens of every political stripe have lost an important, and often times necessary, location to gather petition signatures.

24 states and thousands of cities and towns currently allow citizens to gather signatures to put an issue on the ballot. The change in postal policy is substantially hampering the efforts of citizens around the country who are working to get propositions on the ballot for voters to decide. The Initiative & Referendum Institute spent six months attempting to negotiate a resolution to this issue prior to deciding to go to court but the USPS failed to even offer a compromise.

In a public announcement of the lawsuit, M. Dane Waters said "We wish that we didn't have to take the USPS to court, we had hoped that given the facts they would recognize that petitioning for ballot issues is protected free speech indeed "core political speech" according to the U.S. Supreme Court -- but the USPS has not shown any willingness to rescind their prohibition on petitioning on postal property and instead has chosen to waste the taxpayers dollars to defend a clearly unconstitutional regulation. This prohibition is an affront to the First Amendment, which protects not only free speech, but also the right to petition our government for the redress of grievances. It must be overturned."

The public announcement of the lawsuit was made today at a press conference at the J.W. Marriott in Washington, DC. Speaking at the press conference were the attorneys handling the case as well as several of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit including Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States and Paul Jacob of U.S. Term Limits.

John Ferguson of Swidler Berlin Sheriff Friedman (the firm handling the case) stated, "As a nation, we lament the decline in public participation in the democratic process. Thus it is particularly surprising and unfortunate when an agency of the government acts to preclude vital aspects of public participation. Yet, in its 1998 regulation prohibiting -- indeed, criminalizing -- the peaceable gathering of signatures on petitions, referenda and initiatives in United States Postal Service's parking lots and on its walkways, the Postal Service has, in fact, acted to impair an important aspect of the exercise of a long-recognized First Amendment Right.

This action by the Postal Service is particularly surprising as the Postal Service had expressly recognized the right of citizens to gather signatures on petitions, referenda and initiatives on its property as recently as 1992. Moreover, the Postal Service's 1998 reversal of position was unsupported by evidence that any behavior warranted the dramatic change in its position. We bring this action to right what we believe to be a serious constitutional violation."

Arthur Spitzer, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, who is serving as co-counsel on the case, stated, "Although the Postal Service likes to think of itself as a private business, it is still a part of the United States government and subject to the First Amendment. Sidewalks and similar outdoor areas open to the public, where people meet and greet each other, are also areas where people have a constitutional right to exchange political information and to seek signatures on petitions."

Other plaintiffs in the case who could not be present at the press conference include: Clean (WA state), Oregon Taxpayers United, Citizens for Limited Taxation (MA), Americans for Medical Rights (CA), Oregonians for Fair Taxation, Nebraskans for Limited Terms, David Morris (SC), John Michael (ME), Dennis Polhill (CO), Bart Grant (UT), Lynn Fritchman (ID), Sherry Bockwinkel (WA state), Barbara Anderson (MA), Bill Sizemore (OR), Andrew Bandyk (MI), Gloria Robinson (MI), Mary Baggett (GA), Vincent Ott (MI), Kathleen Snarey (MI) and William Westermeyer (AZ).

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The full text of the complaint will be available on the Institute's website as of 6/2/00.

Initiative & Referendum Institute
1825 I Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20006
202.429.5539 (office) 202.986.3001 (fax)
visit our websites at and

The Eagle-Tribune
Lawrence, Mass.
Saturday, May 27, 2000

Can't get enough of our money


By the time anyone challenges the reinstatement of Registry fees,
legislators will have spent the money

Addiction is a terrible thing. Its victims will cheat and steal to get the substances they must abuse. A drunk may steal from his friends, a drug addict from his own mother, a gambler from his children. All will lie to cover their tracks, and again to cover their lies.

It reminds us of the Massachusetts Legislature's relationship with our money.

Our cash-addicted lawmakers have yet to meet a source of income they can resist or a lie they are unwilling to tell. Reinstating illegal fees for drivers licenses and car registrations to save the Big Dig illustrates the point.

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles long has been a "cash cow" for the state, taking in about $14 for every dollar it spends to operate. That's a profit margin unheard of in real-world business.

And although the state's constitution forbids it to charge more for a state service than the actual cost of providing it, lawmakers allowed the Registry to do so for years because they couldn't resist the millions it made: $807 million alone in fiscal year 1998, for example, against a Registry operating budget of only $57.6 million. They especially could not resist making all this money without passing a tax and dealing with opposition.

So our lawmakers and the Registry lied to us and to our forefathers until the watchdog group Citizens for Limited Taxation sued in the early 1990s to stop them. The Commonwealth wisely capitulated before the suit came to trial, agreeing, among other things, to make drivers licenses renewable without cost for the life of the driver, and auto registrations renewable without cost for as long as the owner kept the vehicle. The agreement would have left about $90 million a year in the pockets of Massachusetts residents and shortened lines at Registry offices.

Suddenly, though, the Big Dig project, poorly planned and executed, falls billions in the hole. To save it, lawmakers need a quick lifeline. Back come the license and registration fees.

Not content to lie to the public, our lawmakers will now lie to the courts. By the time anyone can stop them, the money will be collected and spent.

It begs the image of a smoker so desperate that he will light up within reach of a no-smoking sign, knowing that by the time someone in authority steps in, the cigarette will be finished, and he can blow smoke in our faces once again.

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