Citizens Action Coalition Prevails Against Town Seeking to Restrict Canvassing

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
October 2, 2014 12:00 am

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Indianapolis, Ind. – A federal judge ruled this week that a Yorktown, Indiana ordinance placing time restrictions on the canvassing activities of a statewide advocacy group is unconstitutional and granted the group’s request for the law not to be enforced.

The ruling by Chief Judge Richard Young was entered Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the case in March, 2013 on behalf of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana. The Court found that Yorktown’s ordinance violated the First Amendment by not narrowly tailoring the ordinance to serve legitimate interests of safety and privacy, and by not leaving “ample alternative channels of communication.”

“Door-to-door canvassing has long played a vital role for the dissemination of ideas in our country,” said ACLU of Indiana Senior Staff Attorney Gavin M. Rose. “We are pleased that the Court recognized that the ability of government at any level to interfere with this activity is severely limited, and hope that this ruling will educate other municipalities that might consider similar legislation.”

In 2013, Yorktown passed an ordinance imposing time restrictions on door-to-door canvassing and solicitation, prohibiting the activity “after the hour of 9 p.m. or sunset, whichever is earlier. “CAC canvassers go door-to-door in residential neighborhoods during evening hours to educate citizens and gather petition signatures on issues such as utility rates and regulations, health care and the environment. The CAC has found, after years of engaging in canvassing, that during the evening they are most likely to find people at home who are willing to listen, and perhaps make a donation to the grass-roots, nonprofit organization.

“We sincerely appreciate the Court’s recognition of the importance of door-to-door canvassing in maintaining a healthy political dialogue in our great state and country,” said Kerwin Olson, Executive Director of the CAC of Indiana, “And we are happy it has upheld our canvassers’ constitutionally protected right of free speech.”

The decision in Citizens Action Coalition, Inc. v. Town of Yorktown, No. 1:13-cv 422-RLY-DKL, was entered in the United States District Court Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division on Sept. 30, 2014. The ACLU of Indiana was assisted in this case by Jennifer Washburn of the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana and William R. Groth of Fillenwarth, Dennerline, Groth & Towe, LLP.

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