Judge: Yorktown’s door-to-door soliciting restriction unconstitutional

Yorktown’s ordinance forbidding door-to-door canvassing before or after daylight hours is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled.

In an order issued this week, Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted summary judgment in favor of Citizens Action Coalition, which challenged the ordinance in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

The Delaware County town next door to Muncie adopted an ordinance in 2012 that forbid non-commercial advocates, peddlers, fundraisers, solicitors or merchants to solicit, peddle or fundraise door-to-door before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m. or sunset, whichever is earlier.

The ordinance provided for fines of up to $2,500 per violation.

CAC argued that weeknight hours between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. were crucial to canvassing and fundraising because that’s when people are home and willing to listen, sign petitions and donate. The group said more than half of its field canvassing donations came after 7 p.m., hours that would be restricted during much of the year under the ordinance.

Young wrote that the town failed to narrowly tailor the ordinance to meet its legitimate concerns for residents’ privacy or the town’s concerns about the safety of canvassers.

“Accordingly, the Ordinance cannot survive constitutional scrutiny on its face or as applied,” Young wrote in Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Inc. v. Town of Yorktown, Indiana, 1:13-CV-422.

“We sincerely appreciate the court’s recognition of the importance of door-to-door canvassing in maintaining a healthy political dialogue in our great state and country,” Kerwin Olson, executive director of the CAC of Indiana, said in a statement. “And we are happy it has upheld our canvassers’ constitutionally protected right of free speech.”

“Door-to-door canvassing has long played a vital role for the dissemination of ideas in our country,” said ACLU of Indiana senior staff attorney Gavin M. Rose. “We are pleased that the court recognized that the ability of government at any level to interfere with this activity is severely limited, and hope that this ruling will educate other municipalities that might consider similar legislation.”

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