Court Rules North Dakota Campaign Ban Unconstitutional

Calling the law “clearly invalid,” a federal judge in North Dakota today ruled that the state’s 100-year-old ban on election-day campaigning is unconstitutional.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Competitive Politics, a pro-free speech group. The Center represents Gary Emineth, who wishes to post yard signs on his property, distribute fliers, and discuss the upcoming election with his neighbors.  The North Dakota statute bans any person, on election day, from “in any manner trying to induce or persuade” others to support or oppose any candidate or ballot measure.

Judge Daniel L. Hovland of the U.S. District Court for North Dakota ruled that the ban “imposes a prior restraint on protected speech” and “is an unreasonable restraint on constitutionally-protected speech.”  He noted that “[o]ne can hardly conceive of a statute less narrowly tailored than a blanket prohibition on all election-related speech.” The Court went on to find “no valid justification for the law in modern day society, nor any compelling state interest offered to support its continued existence.”

“We appreciate the Court’s quick and decisive order,” said Allen Dickerson, legal director of the Center for Competitive Politics.  ”As the Court noted, ‘the demise of this archaic law has long been recognized as inevitable.’”

The Court’s injunction bars any enforcement of the ban. Judge Hovland also ordered the parties to advise him, within 30 days, as to whether a full trial will be necessary in the case.

CCP’s Allen Dickerson and Anne Marie Mackin represented Mr. Emineth, joined by local counsel Monte L. Rogneby.

The Court’s order may be found here.

Coverage from the Volokh Conspiracy.

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  1. [...] CCP: Calling the law “clearly invalid,” a federal judge in North Dakota today ruled that the state’s 100-year-old ban on election-day campaigning is unconstitutional. [...]

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