McALLEN, TX – A federal judge in Texas today struck down key portions of Starr County’s regulations that limited political speech.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane concluded that certain Starr County rules restricting electioneering on county-owned properties violated the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and TCRP (Texas Civil Rights Project) sued Starr County in February 2018, challenging the constitutionality of the County’s electioneering and property use rules because rules sought to limit political gatherings and speech at a host of County-owned properties, including polling places and the courthouse steps.
The court’s ruling also prevents the county from implementing provisions of its property use policy, including rules that imposed a permit process the court called burdensome, a minimum age requirement of 21 for use of county property, and criminal penalties for violating the policy.
“The judge’s ruling strikes down key portions of the County’s unconstitutional regulations and also substantially limits other provisions in order to ensure that the County cannot infringe on residents’ First Amendment rights,” said Nina Perales, MALDEF Vice President of Litigation and counsel in the case. “The bottom line is that voters have more freedom to express their views outside polling places and on other county-owned property without facing burdensome restrictions on their speech.”
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, McAllen Division, on behalf of three Starr County residents — a Republican voter and a Democratic voter, as well as a young candidate — each of whom has a long history of civic engagement and who wishes to engage in electioneering and campaigning efforts on county property, such as distributing literature, displaying car bumper stickers, advocating for candidates, displaying signs, and wearing campaign t-shirts.
Read the ruling HERE.