The arguments made by the State of Texas, attempting to defend section 253.037(a) of the Election Code, are truly remarkable and borderline frivolous. The provision requires any group organized based on common principle (instead of, for example, fidelity to an identified candidate) to (a) register, (b) collect contributions from ten persons, and (c) wait 60 days, all before spending more than $500 even on their own, independent speech (“independent expenditures” in constitutional jargon). The State’s arguments are, thankfully, entirely foreclosed by decades of Supreme Court precedent. But they deserve more attention and discussion, and this blog will delve into them more deeply and explain just how dim a view at least some attorneys at the Texas Attorney General’s office have of the First Amendment rights of Texans to organize for political advocacy.
In a nutshell, Texas is arguing that the plaintiffs before the Fifth Circuit (three “general purpose” political committees and a nonprofit 501(c)(4)) have no business complaining about a waiting period on their speech, because Texas generously affords multiple “choices” for the exercise of First Amendment rights, and plaintiffs should have either spent money through a nonprofit organization or registered as “specific purpose” committees to support identified candidates. Appellants’ reply brief responds to these dubious arguments.
REPLY BRIEF HERE
Story here, including this:
Lopez amended her original lawsuit Wednesday as well, adding claims that many voters were influenced improperly by Hidalgo County Precinct 1 and Weslaco city employees.
It alleges the precinct placed a sign saying who to vote for near a work time clock, a police officer drove voters to the polls and city employees were involved in creating a tabloid — the controversial and mysterious “truth” publication — to promote Rivera’s slate.
It also listed the names of 43 people who cast mail-in ballots that it says should not have been counted for various reasons.
“These pervasive illegalities in ballots voted by mail are the result of a concerted effort by Contestee Rivera’s campaign to encourage voters to seek ballot by mail applications, some of which were fraudulently submitted on behalf of voters not eligible … or even completing ballots without direction from the voters,” the suit says.
“The ballot by mail scheme allowed the Rivera campaign to exercise undue influence on such voters in a manner that would not be possible, or at least would be harder to achieve, if the voter were to vote in person.”
Barring problems with discovery, this election contest will be tried the first week of February. This was the agreement reached at the status hearing today.
Status hearing set for 1:30 today before Judge Menton Murray, Jr. Judge Murray was appointed as the special judge to hear the case by the 5th Administrative Judicial Region, as required by the Election Code (since the case arises in Hidalgo County, an out-of-county judge is required to sit). While a visiting judge presides, the case remains in the 370th Dist Ct in Hidalgo County.
Here are news stories by The Monitor and KGBT (VIDEO) reporting on the filing of the lawsuit last month.
In Catholic Leadership Coalition, Inc. v. Reisman (background here), the Attorney General’s office filed its brief for appellee David Reisman and the other members of the Texas Ethics Commission on December 5, arguing, among other things, that Texas PACs can be required to wait 60 days after registering with the State before spending any money (at least, any in excess of $500). NLF’s brief on behalf of appellants (three Texas general purpose committees and one 501(c)(4), namely the Catholic Leadership Coalition, Texas Leadership Institute for Public Advocacy, Friends of SAFA Texas, and Texas Freedom PAC), arguing that the First Amendment prohibits such prior restraints on speech, is here.
Appellants’ reply brief is due December 23.