ACLU of Michigan Wins National Award for Lawsuit Defending Petition Rights

Thu, Nov 17 2011

(LAKE RIDGE, VA) – Citizens in Charge Foundation, a national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, presented the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan with the October 2011 John Lilburne Award for filing a lawsuit andcoming to the defense of Michigan citizens whose First Amendment petition rights were infringed upon by state and local government.

“Elected officials will sometimes go to absurd lengths in order to keep citizens from fully using their petition rights,” said Citizens in Charge Foundation President Paul Jacob. “The Michigan chapter of the ACLU saw what was happening and took legal action to remind government that it must respect petition rights.”

Earlier this year, the Genesee County Parks Department refused to allow petition circulator Denise Miller to collect signatures in a county park until she got a permission slip from the county. Even after jumping through the county’s administrative hoops, including a two-week run-around, Miller was forced to stay within a 3-foot by 3-foot area far removed from any park goers who would potentially sign her petition. She also had to leave the park well before closing time and didn’t have the same sign privileges that are offered to most park users.

In July 2011, the ACLU of Michigan filed suit in U.S. District Court stating that Denise Miller’s First Amendment rights were violated when the Genesee County Parks Department confined her petitioning to a tiny designated area, along with other violations of her rights.

“The fact that county officials thought it was okay to confine a citizen seeking petition signatures to a 3-foot by 3-foot area is ridiculous,” Jacob added. “Without organizations like the ACLU of Michigan, citizens would have a difficult time fighting these restrictions. The ACLU is helping citizens keep their government accountable, and for that they are being recognized with this month’s award.”

Each month, Citizens in Charge Foundation presents the John Lilburne Award to a citizen, group of citizens or organization doing the most to protect and defend the First Amendment petition rights of Americans.  John Lilburne was a 17th Century English pamphleteer, political activist, and champion of individual rights who advocated constitutional government and pioneered the use of petitioning and referenda for redress against government power and abuse. For a complete list of past Lilburne Award winners please click here.

ABOUT CITIZENS IN CHARGE FOUNDATION:
Citizens in Charge Foundation is the only national transpartisan voter rights group dedicated to protecting and expanding the ballot initiative and referendum process without regard to partisanship and politics. We believe good government starts with the voter. For more information visit us at: www.CitizensInChargeFoundation.org.

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