Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Federal court rules some Colorado election laws too burdensome

The Denver Post reports that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a Colorado law spelling out disclosure requirements for issue committees is too burdensome and is unconstitutional.

Colorado law requires that any group of two or more people accepting contributions or making expenditures exceeding $200 to support or oppose a ballot issue must register as an issue committee. They also must report the names and addresses of anyone who contributing $20 or more.

The case centered on a 2005 effort to annex Parker North, a neighborhood of 300 homes, into the town of Parker, and a campaign to oppose such a move. Proponents of the annexation filed an elections complaint against opponents, saying opponents failed to file as an issue committee.

In its decision, the court focused on the small scale of the homeowners’ campaign and the difference between disclosing the finances of a political candidate – who may be corrupted by campaign contributions – and the finances of an issue committee.

An issue is not corruptible, and so limits on giving to ballot initiative groups are unconstitutional, the court said, pointing out that “nondisclosure could require the debate to actually be about the merits of the proposition on the ballot.”

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