Aaron's Real Opinions:

Boulder Free Speech
by Aaron Harber
July 5, 2009 - Print Article

These days almost everyone supports the concept of limiting the length of political campaigns. Many drag on for months and some take years. The concept of campaigns limited to a few months or even several weeks, as is the case in many other countries, has to be enthralling to most American citizens.

The City of Boulder, Colorado, has taken a bizarre approach, however, to achieving this goal. Deploying a blatantly unconstitutional regulation, the City prohibits citizens from publicly announcing their candidacies or campaigning until the City says it’s OK.

The City sets a date at which candidate signature petitions can first be submitted but prohibits announcements of candidacies and any campaigning until (a) that date occurs and (b) sufficient signatures are validated by the City Clerk. The first date candidacy petitions can be submitted and signatures can be validated is 90 days prior to the November General Election in odd-numbered years.

While Boulder’s objective is laudable, the concept of a government entity restricting Free Speech and telling candidates they are not allowed to announce their intent to run for office not only is illegal but is just plain silly. Does the City actually believe such a restriction would withstand even the most nominal legal challenge?

This is an example of how many people in government believe “the ends justify the means.” That is, many of those who are in office to serve the public believe almost any action they take, if it promotes the public interest, is acceptable - even if it blatantly violates basic principles of the Constitution.

For any government entity to so severely restrict political Free Speech in this manner is extraordinary - and should be corrected immediately. What all of us have to recognize is the right to Free Speech means there will be times we hear speech with which we disagree or find offensive. It also means there will be times we hear speech when we don’t want to listen at all. That is what freedom for everyone entails.

Although the City’s goal is praiseworthy, the real questions are, “Who came up with this idea?” and “How did this pass legal muster?” Getting answers to those questions justifies further investigation. In the meantime, the City should accept the responsibility of correcting its misjudgment and change the law limiting Free Speech.

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