[JURIST] Lawyers for two Wyoming groups on Thursday filed a lawsuit [press release; case history] challenging the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) [official website] rules governing advertising, arguing the restrictions are overly broad and confusing. The Wyoming Liberty Group (WyLiberty) [advocacy website] and grassroots organization Free Speech filed the suit on behalf of the three members of Free Speech who wish to spend money advertising about "federal issues." The group reports that the FEC rules are cumbersome and vague and have failed to distinguish "candidate advocacy from issue advocacy." In a press release, WyLiberty said that they had originally requested [letter, PDF] guidance from the FEC on how and to what extent they could legally advertise on issues without violating FEC regulations, but the FEC allegedly responded with a vague, inconclusive answer. WyLiberty staff attorney Stephen Klein said the regulations limit free speech:
The government does not have a reason to force bookkeeping, disclosure and reporting requirements on groups that only speak about political issues, even when those issues, like Obamacare, are associated with candidates. The government weaves a web of complex regulations that restricts politics to so-called professionals and shuts out individuals who just want to speak publically about political issues and those in power.WyLiberty says the FEC has overstepped its authority in the regulation of political speech in a way that amounts to government censorship of citizens.
Controversy over US election laws continues to arise as the 2012 presidential elections draw near. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Tuesday that it has filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against Florida seeking to halt the state's ongoing purging of voter rolls. Florida, in turn, has filed suit [JURIST report] against the US government seeking greater access to government data that will assist the state in the purging process. In April, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld [JURIST report] a portion of an Arizona voter registration law requiring voters to show identification at the polls, while striking down a provision that further required proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. That ruling has been stayed [JURIST report] by the Supreme Court. A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in March struck down [JURIST report] two recently-enacted parts of the Illinois Election Code designed to cap campaign contributions.