State Regulation of the Initiative Process: Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, Inc., et al. Page: 2 of 6
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The Supreme Court recently dealt with this conflict in Buckley v. American
Constitutional Law Foundation, Inc., et al., a case from the Tenth Circuit dealing with the
constitutionality of various provisions enacted by the State of Colorado to regulate the
petition initiative process.3 While the Supreme Court had handed down previous rulings
pertaining to state regulation of the electoral process and associated First Amendment free
speech considerations, it had not spoken directly on the applicability of such rulings to the
initiative process.4 The Court's decision extends First Amendment rights acknowledged
in prior cases, and elaborates upon permissible state regulation in the initiative and
Respondents, collectively referred to as ACLF in the Court's opinion, originally
brought suit against the Secretary of State of Colorado in 1993 in the United States
District Court for the District of Colorado pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging
portions of the state's statutory scheme regulating the initiative-petition process. In
alleging that various initiative regulations violated the right to freedom of speech under the
First Amendment, ACLF contested specifically: (1) Colo. Rev. Stat. 1-40-112(1) (1998),
requiring that all petition circulators be registered voters and at least 18 years of age; (2)
1-40-108, limiting circulation of a particular petition to six months; (3) 1-40-112(2),
requiring that petition circulators wear identification badges giving their names and
disclosing their status as a paid or volunteer circulator; (4) 1-40-111(2), requiring that
circulators attach to each petition an affidavit containing the circulator's name and address
and a statement averring familiarity with state laws regarding petitioning; (5) 1-40-121,
requiring that initiative proponents disclose (a) at the time of filing the petition, the name,
address, and county of voter registration of all paid circulators, the amount of money paid
per signature, and the total amount paid to each circulator, and (b) to disclose the names
of the proponents, names and addresses of paid circulators, the name of the proposed
ballot measure, and the amount of money paid to each circulator on a monthly basis.6
In the first part of its analysis, the Supreme Court summarily affirmed the Tenth
Circuit's determination that the age restriction, six-month circulation limit, and affidavit
requirement were all constitutionally valid.7 The Court pointed to these rulings as an
acknowledgment of the strong regulatory interests a state possesses in preserving the
integrity of its electoral system.8 This proposition was discussed at length by the appellate
court which noted that, in light of the need for active governmental structuring of the
3Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, Inc., et al., 1997 WL 7723.
4See Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60 (1960); McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334
5See Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, Inc., et al., 1997 WL 7723 at 1-2.
Plaintiffs at the district court level consisted of American Constitutional Law Foundation, Inc.,
which operates as a nonprofit public interest group that advocates direct democracy, and several
private citizens participating in Colorado's petition process. Id.
61d at 1.
7Id. at 5.
8Id. at 5. See also, Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351 (1997).
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State Regulation of the Initiative Process: Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, Inc., et al., report, January 21, 1999; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc808458/m1/2/: accessed January 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.