CT Public Funding Law Held Unconstitutional

from Ballot Access News
Connecticut Public Funding Law Held Unconstitutional Because it Discriminates Severely Against Minor Parties & Independent Candidates
/ August 27th, 2009

On August 27, U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill, a Clinton appointee, held that Connecticut’s public funding law for candidates is so discriminatory in favor of the two major parties, and against all other parties and candidates, that it is unconstitutional in its entirety. The opinion is 138 pages long. A link to the decision is found in this news story from Connecticut News Junkie. Thanks to Ken Krayeske for this news. The case is Green Party of Ct. v Garfield, 3:06cv1030. The Libertarian Party is a co-plaintiff.

Connecticut’s public funding law was passed in 2006 and used for the first time in 2008. Members of parties that polled 20% of the vote in the last election are entitled to public funding if they receive a certain number of qualifying contributions. Others must also obtain the qualifying contributions, but they need to submit a very large number of signatures, in addition.

The decision summarizes the problems with the law on page 71: “The CEP (Citizens Election Program) enhances the relative strength of major party candidates in ways that represent a severe burden on the political opportunity of minor party candidates for the following reasons: (1) it provides participating major party candidates public funding at windfall levels, well beyond what most major party candidates would typically be able to raise on their own from private fundraising sources; (2) it permits major party candidates who are as equally ‘hopeless’ as minor party candidates in many districts to become eligible for full funding without first requiring such hopeless major party candidates to make the same threshold showing of public support required of minor party candidates through the additional qualifying criteria; (3) the additional qualifying criteria for minor party candidates are nearly impossible to achieve, thus ensuring that minor party candidates will only very rarely qualify for the ‘enhancing’ benefits made available by CEP participation; and (4) in the event a minor party candidate does qualify for partial CEP funding, it handicaps that participating minor party candidate by automatically granting full funding to his or her participating major party opponent, and by prohibiting the partially-funded minor party candidate from raising private contributions, up to the full grant amount, in increments greater than $100.”

7 thoughts on “CT Public Funding Law Held Unconstitutional

  1. Dave Gillespie

    Richard Winger provided excellent documentary support and was deposed on behalf
    of the plaintiffs in this case. Cheers to him and of
    course to Judge Underhill. Likewise, the ACLU.

    Shame, shame to the Brennan Center, which
    obviously has lost its compass. This was the
    Center which did so much in the past to overturn
    barriers which disenfranchised those who wanted to vote for independent and third-party
    candidates. Brennan Center, you were dead
    wrong in this case.

  2. Dave Schwab

    The Brennan Center and a few other groups and individuals who consider the Democratic Party more important than democracy testified in favor of this grossly discriminatory bill. This bill wasn’t even separate-but-equal; this bill was Dred Scott redux. I drink to its well-deserved death.

  3. richard winger

    Key Connecticut legislators said they wouldn’t pass public funding unless the law was skewed to make it easy for Democrats and Republicans to get the money, but very tough for anyone else to get the money. Other legislators said, “yes, but if we pass it that way, we’ll get sued.” The Brennan Center’s role was to promise to defend the state if it got sued, taking the burden off the Attorney General’s office.

    When Justice Brennan was on the US Supreme Court, no justice was more favorable to minor party and independent voters and candidates than he was, with the exception of Justice William O. Douglas. The Brennan Center is not being faithful to Brennan’s legacy.

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