I was pleased to see that three weeks ago the Rhode Island ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the City of East Providence, challenging City Charter provisions that impose increased burdens, above and beyond what state law requires, on candidates who wish to run for local office. The lawsuit was filed by RI ACLU volunteer attorney Angel Taveras on behalf of Brian Monteiro, a RI Young Democrat and an unsuccessful Ward 2 candidate for the East Providence School Committee in the 2008 primary election.
On July 20, 2008, after I commented on this Anchor Rising post that the East Providence reqirements might be unconstitutional, I contacted Brian and urged him to challenge the constitutionality of the candidate requirements. I am glad to see that he has stood up for his rights and the rights of other East Providence citizens who want to serve, but face enormous roadblocks to do so.
Here are the requirements to run for local office in the East Providence city charter at issue:
- Candidates for local office, including ward seats, must have their nomination papers signed by at least 200 qualified voters.
- Voters are barred from signing more than one candidate’s nomination papers for the same office.
Yet, Rhode Island law allows voters to sign nomination papers for multiple candidates running for the same office, and requires only 50 certified signatures from candidates seeking to run for ward seats. The ACLU lawsuit argues that these increased burdens violate Monteiro’s constitutional right to due process and equal protection of the laws.
Monteiro, who hopes to run for office again, said today: “I believe in an open and honest election process; government belongs to those whom it serves, the people. For a few months, I was disillusioned with the political process. However, eventually I realized that I could make things better for all by challenging these charter provisions, and that is why I am going forward with the case.” ACLU attorney Taveras added: “This case is about bringing East Providence in line with other cities and towns in Rhode Island. We should be making it easier, not more difficult, for citizens to run for office.”
Let’s hope that the Court overturns this draconian requirements.