ACLU on Government Reform



Sue states for arbitrary voter registration deadlines

Massachusetts law requires residents to register to vote at least 20 days before an election. But the ACLU disagrees with that deadline, and is taking the state to court to change it.

Q: What is the issue with the current law?

A: The concern is that the 20-day deadline is completely arbitrary, and disenfranchises thousands of voters every election. There's a particular concern for communities that are disproportionately impacted by this deadline: low-income people, elderly people, students, younger people, and people of color.

Q: How does MA compare to other states?

A: We're behind, given the technological advancements that have been made to facilitate election-day registration. There are a wide range of registration cutoffs, but there are several states that have election-day registration, including NH and WI, states of comparable size and population.

Q: How would changing the deadline affect MA?

A: It would increase voter turnout. More people would have access to the polls.

Source: Boston Metro interview with ACLU on MA registration deadline , Jul 7, 2017

Censoring Citizens United would allow censoring a lot more

The Obama administration was asked at an oral argument [in the Citizens United case] if it could prohibit a company from using its general treasury funds to publish a book that discusses the American political system for 500 pages and then, at the end, says "Vote for X." President Obama's lawyer said, flat out, "Yes."

These radical claims for the authority to ban books and movies led me to dub the amendment's proponents the "Fahrenheit 451 Democrats," after Ray Bradbury's dystopian classic about book-burning government power run amok. And their positions were so radical that they lost one of their usual allies--the ACLU. To its credit, the ACLU blasted the proposed constitutional amendment: "Even proponents of the amendment have acknowledged that his authority could extend to books, television shows, or movies, such as Hillary Clinton's Hard Choice or a show like the West Wing, which depicted a heroic Democratic presidential administration during the crucial election years of 2000 and 2004.

Source: A Time for Truth, by Ted Cruz, p.314-5 , Jun 30, 2015

Congressional term limits are unconstitutional

In U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (May 22, 1995), the Court effectively ended the movement to enact term limits for Congress on a state-by-state basis. In a lengthy majority opinion written by Justice Stevens, the Court held that the qualifications for Congress established in the Constitution itself were "fixed" and could not be amended by the states without a constitutional amendment. The Court's opinion rested heavily on history and the Court's concept of federalism. (The dissent had a very different view of federalism and the result it commanded in this case.) In a critical passage, Justice Stevens wrote that the notion of congressional term limits violates the "fundamental principle of our representative democracy 'that the people should chose whom they please to govern them.'" The ACLU submitted an amicus brief arguing that congressional term limits were unconstitutional under the Qualifications Clause.
Source: ACLU 2015-16 voting recommendation on US Term Limits , Nov 7, 2014

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Page last updated: Jan 19, 2018