ACLU to Aliso Viejo: Canvassing Restrictions are Unconstitutional

The ACLU is warning the City of Aliso Viejo that a prohibition on canvassing residential premises after dark Monday through Saturday or any time on Sunday or on any state or federal holidays violates the U.S. Constitution.

The warning came in a letter dated Wednesday from the ACLU’s Peter J. Eliasberg, chief counsel, Manheim Family Attorney for First Amendment Rights, and Staff Attorney Brendan Hamme. It was addressed to the Aliso Viejo City Council and cc’d to City Attorney Scott C. Smith.

City officials could not be reached for comment.

The ACLU claims Aliso Viejo Municipal Code (AVMC) Section 4.04.100, which establishes the canvassing restrictions, violates the First Amendment rights of the Democratic Party of Orange County and its members. “Accordingly, I request that you cease enforcement of this section of the municipal code and then either repeal it or amend it so that it satisfies the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” states the letter.

“The Democratic Party of OC is the official political organization representing more than half a million registered Democratic voters in Orange County, California. The Democratic Party of OC conducts year-round grassroots field programs to register new voters, tries to increase voter turnout in every part of Orange County, and brings Democratic messaging directly to voters by phone, by mail, at events, and by canvassing at voters’ residences. It would canvass at residences in Aliso Viejo on Sundays, state and federal holidays, and between 6 pm and 9 pm if the municipal code did not prohibit such canvassing.”

It is the ACLU attorneys position that, “Canvassing people in their homes to speak with them about politics, candidates, and upcoming elections is unquestionably protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The attorneys write that they are “confident” if the city refuses to amend or stop enforcing the municipal code section, the Democratic Party of OC would prevail in a court challenge and the city would be liable for the Democrats’ attorney fees. The ACLU requests that the city inform the attorneys whether it has suspended enforcement of the canvassing prohibitions by March 27.

Click the link to read the full letter:

19.03.20 Letter to City Council re canvassing

OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.

4 Replies to “ACLU to Aliso Viejo: Canvassing Restrictions are Unconstitutional”

  1. If someone comes to my house in the evenings, Sundays, and holidays, I will switch to the opposite of whatever they were advocating for. Shame on the ACLU for not protecting my individual right to not have a solicitor, political or otherwise, come onto my private property during hours that I, and my fellow community members, have determined to be reasonable. Since when does free speech mean you can harass me in my home?

    1. If I’m canvassing and I see a “no solicitors” sign, I would not talk to that person. I would respect your right to be left alone but will you respect my right to speak to your neighbor?

      A lot of this sort of canvassing isn’t to get you to vote for one thing or another, btw, it’s simply to help you register to vote (at all). Even if you’re “voting for the opposite” or whatever, I’d still help you register to vote. Your opinion matters, even when you disagree with me.

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