Group challenges Mich. ban on nonresident signature-gatherers

Sunday, January 27, 2008

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A citizens group trying to recall state Rep. Robert Dean is challenging a Michigan law that bars those who reside outside his district from collecting signatures on recall petitions.

Dean, a Grand Rapids Democrat, is among at least 10 legislators who have been targeted in recall campaigns because they voted for tax increases last fall.

Taxpayers to Recall State Representative Robert Dean filed its lawsuit Jan. 22 in Kent County Circuit Court. Judge James Redford was assigned the case, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The suit says the law, which requires that a petition circulator “be a qualified and registered elector in the electoral district of the official sought to be recalled,” violates the plaintiffs’ free-speech and -association rights under the First Amendment.

The group hired college students who live in Dean’s district to stake out the polls earlier this month during the presidential primary election. Nonresidents who showed up to support the recall drive were prevented from collecting signatures.

The defendants in the suit are Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and Kent County Prosecutor William A. Forsyth.

“We were just served yesterday and we will be reviewing it with our attorneys to determine how we will move forward,” said Kelly Chesney, a spokeswoman for Land.

Telephone messages seeking comment also were left at the offices of Cox and Forsyth.

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