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Well, I had completely forgotten about this case.

The Initiative & Referendum Institute filed an initial lawsuit back in 2000, bringing a facial challenge to a 1998 ban by the US Postal Service on “soliciting signatures on petitions” on “all real property under the charge and control of the Postal Service.” 39 C.F.R. § 232.1(a), (h)(1) Violators were subject to both a criminal fine and imprisonment. Id. § 232.1(p)(2).

[For the record, I sit on the “Board of Scholars” of the I&R Institute, although I have not received any communication for years from the Institute, now housed at the University of Southern California. Also, for the record, their website is terribly awkward, not to mention, outdated.]

Seemed at the time, a tad harsh. Not to mention, unconstitutional.

But lo and behold! After several iterations by the US Postal Service modifying its rule — and subsequent litigation — the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, upheld the most recent (2010) Postal Service regulation that allows petition gatherers to solicit signatures while standing on interior postal sidewalks, but the physical act of signing a petition is not permitted on the interior sidewalk. Rather, those wishing to sign the petition must head to a designated “Grace” area to fill in the information on the petition.

But, as Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who signed the majority opinion but wrote separately in a Concurring Opinion, stated:

“…this half-a-loaf solution seems more persnickety than practical. The harms about which the Postal Service is concerned—the impeding of traffic and the appearance of
Postal Service endorsement, Majority Op. at 11–12—and, indeed, all of the harms I can imagine, accrue in the initial, permitted phase of a signature-gathering encounter: the
solicitation.”

Look for this decision to be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

reports the Kansas City Star in a story by Barb Shelly, “Defenders of high payday loan rates resort to intimidation.”

According to the story, “Someone broke into a car in Springfield last week and stole 5,500 signatures that volunteers had gathered for initiative petitions to cap payday loan rates and raise Missouri’s minimum wage.”

There have also been numerous allegations that opponents of the two ballot measures have been harassing signature gatherers. According to Shelly’s story, “Opposition blockers down there have been screaming in the faces of our canvassers and voters to intimidate people from signing,” said Molly Fleming-Pierre, an organizer with Communities Creating Opportunities in Kansas City.

As has been reported on earlier, volunteers, including clergy members and other religious groups, have been busy collecting signatures in an effort to qualify the measures.

It’s unclear who is behind the blocking efforts in Missouri.  The Star reports that, “A shadowy though well-funded group called Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity is opposing the payday loan initiative, but there is no way to show at this point if that group paid someone to coordinate the strong-arm tactics used in Springfield.”Fortunately, there are statutes on the books in Missouri that law enforcement can use to crack down on this criminal behavior.

The deadline for depositing signed petitions to the Missouri Secretary of State is this Monday.

Proponents of the two Missouri initiatives are optimistic that they will qualify for the ballot.

If they do qualify for the November election, it bodes well for Democratic candidates on the ballot, as my research on the 2006 minimum wage initiatives documents.

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