Federal Court upholds restriction on petitioning

Originally published by the Ballot Access Fairness Coalition

In 2014 the New Hampshire General Court passed a new restriction on minor party access to the general election ballot by prohibiting a political organization from collecting petitions before the election year. The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire filed a lawsuit challenging this new law. A similar law in Rhode Island was struck down in 2009 because the sole claim by the Rhode Island government was “reducing the number of ‘false positives’.” In New Hampshire, that was the initial reason given for passage of the new law, however William Gardner changed the reasoning the rationale to prevent ballot clutter and to ensure that political parties have a current modicum of support. (more…)

Exclusive: Federal Court Declares NH’s “Ballot Selfie” Law Unconstitutional

Ballot Selfie

No Longer Illegal in NH

In a 42-page decision, the US District Court for New Hampshire has ruled in favor of protestors including Free State Project early mover and attorney Brandon Ross who violated the state’s “ballot selfie” prohibition and were investigated and threatened by the Attorney General’s office. In 2014, Ross had taken a picture of his ballot and posted it to his facebook accompanied by the words “come at me bro”. They did, and now Ross and his co-plaintiffs state representative Leon Rideout, and Andrew Langlois are victorious in their case thanks to the NH ACLU, as the law has been overturned as unconstitutional!

The defendant in the case, representing the state, was secretary of state Bill Gardener who argued that free speech (photos of ballots) should be curtailed because voters will be either induced to sell their votes or subjected to coercion if they are permitted to disclose images of their ballots to others. Judge Paul Barbadoro denied there was any evidence those speculative objections would be the case, and even if there were evidence, that’s not reason enough to restrict free speech.

Timothy Horrigan

State Rep Tim Horrigan, Snitch

The case reveals on page 18, that it was Timothy Horrigan, an anti-freedom state rep (rated as a “Constitutional Threat” in 2015 by the NH Liberty Alliance) that both introduced the bill banning ballot selfies AND snitched to the Attorney General’s office about Ross’ facebook post. Ross, in an exclusive interview for Free Keene said Horrigan’s behavior, “shows that lawmakers will absolutely use their laws they’ve just made to try to censor people”.

Ross also said he was surprised the state actually moved against him, saying, “I gave them too much credit, thinking they would never try to enforce that clearly unconstitutional law. Joke’s on me. But, a little healthy defiance can be a good thing now and again too.”

Shire Ministers Test Religious Liberty

CoexistIs there really religious freedom? The state claims in their documents that religions are exempt from taxation. Now, three liberty-oriented churches in New Hampshire are going to court appealing the tax exemption denials of tax assessors statewide. The Concord Monitor’s Nick Reid reported recently on the Church of the Sword, Peaceful Assembly Church, and Shire Free Church‘s efforts to stand for religious freedom:

A church pastor, late to the Sunday service, crashes through the door of a Concord bar, and the congregation inside turns to look. A second pastor, Stu Light, stands on the piste with a foam sword in hand. He calls out to the first pastor: “I look forward to killing you.”

 

At the Church of the Sword, where belief in a god or gods comes secondary to espousing principles of self-sufficiency and arming oneself, the greeting could be considered their version of “peace be with you.” After all, one of the holy texts of the 5-year-old, nontheistic, New Hampshire-born religion is Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

 

“We believe in an active struggle against those who would deprive us of life and liberty. We believe in studying and applying the martial path in the judicial and legislative arenas, as well as in self-defense,” says a sampling of the church’s statement of beliefs.

 

So when the town of Westmoreland said last year, and the Cheshire County Superior Court agreed this year, that the Church of the Sword isn’t a real religion – and therefore doesn’t qualify for a religious tax exemption – they took it as an attack on their freedom and struck back. (more…)

ACLU Sues Alton Board of Selectmen for Arresting Activist for Free Speech

According to a recent press release from the NH ACLU, Alton town selectmen had a local activist arrested for daring to speak out at a meeting. Jeffrey Clay was supposedly given five minutes to address the board, but two minutes in was interrupted by the rude selectmen who voted to close public input when they did not like what Clay had to say to them. He was demanding they resign, accusing them of corruption, so they proved his claim and had him arrested:

The Laconia district court threw out the obviously illegal charge of “disorderly conduct”, and the ACLU has filed suit in civil court. As NH ACLU head attorney Gilles Bissonnette points out in their press release announcing the suit,

Sadly, these types of free speech violations still occur in 2015. In a free society, governmental officials are required to tolerate harsh criticism and even a demeaning attitude towards them—including viewpoints that can feel like “character assassination”—and cannot discriminate based on these critical viewpoints. As the U.S. Supreme Court has held, “[a]s a general matter, … in public debate, our own citizens must tolerate insulting, and even outrageous, speech in order to provide adequate breathing space to the freedoms protected by the First Amendment.” Thus, speech directed to and about the government is singled out for protection because speech—including opinions about how well or badly officials carry out their duties—lies at the very heart of the First Amendment.

Recent court activism in Manchester

Earlier today on July 16th 2015, I went to my court date at the 9th Circuit District Division Courthouse in Manchester NH for my trial over a traffic ticket. Accompanying me to record my trial was Renee Kate of the Seditious Sirens with camera and press badge in hand. When we entered the courthouse, we had to pass security. Security attempted to give Renee a hard time about recording in court. Both of us replied that we are recognized by the court and the State of New Hampshire as press and continued to proceed to the court room. The two of us sat down in the court room and witnessed two people take a plea deal from the court. After watching the court threatening violence against people, one of the court clerks walked up to us, called me by name, and informed me my case was Nolle Prossed by the prosecutor. The prosecutor of the case decided to throw out their case against me in regards to the ticket I was fighting. My objective was to petition the court to allow me to donate my time to a private charity instead of the state receiving funds received_464226037085751from me. I attempted this in the pretrial as well but was given a non guilty plea instead. A point I had planned to bring up during the trial as well. We did find it interesting that they knew who I was and didn’t need to call my name out to find me.

The other reason I have been fighting traffic and parking tickets as of late was for practice. Unfortunately, living as freely as I do here in the Shire, being kidnapped by the state is a possibility. I viewed this trial as a court room workshop. Worst case scenario they would take the $110 from me but I would not be in a cage. I walked away with a couple of important lessons. Don’t take a plea is a great strategy in an attempt to win a case. How else would get a case thrown out if you do not fight it?  When possible, take a case to trial.  Also, do yourself a favor by grabbing a friend, printing a press badge, and bring a camera to your court date. The camera and press badge did not see use today but I am certain had I not had those two things, the outcome of today would not have been in my favor.

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