Oregon appeals court strikes down anti-petitioning ordinance
By The Associated Press
SALEM, Ore. An ordinance against collecting initiative petition signatures at public transit stations in Lane County was struck down this week by the Oregon Court of Appeals.
The court said the ordinance violates free-speech rights under the state constitution.
The May 1 decision upheld a ruling by Lane County Circuit Judge Gregory Foote that the Lane Transit District can restrict, but not ban, signature-gathering at its bus boarding areas.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in 2000 on behalf of signature-gatherer Steven Leppanen after the district barred him from collecting signatures at a downtown transit station in Eugene.
The ruling does not affect a separate transit district ban on "impeding or blocking free movement" of bus passengers.
The appeals court said all gathering of signatures at transit stations can't be outlawed because the ordinance imposes a content-based speech restriction "without regard to any effect that engaging in that conduct produces."
The decision is the latest in a series of rulings on ballot initiative signature-gathering, some of which have narrowed petitioners' rights.
The Oregon Supreme Court in 2000 reversed itself in saying for the first time that petitioners have no constitutional right to collect signatures at shopping centers or on other private property without the owner's consent.
The high court overturned its own 1993 decision that had said petitioners were constitutionally entitled to work in common areas of large shopping centers because they had, in effect, become public forums.
Few restrictions have been applied to petitioners on public property.
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