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A federal judge ruled a law signed last year by Gov. Kristi Noem violates the free speech rights of those who gather signatures in favor of ballot measures.

South Dakota's ballot petition circulator rules held unconstitutional

South Dakota's new regulation of people who circulate petitions for ballot initiatives is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.

The decision, if it withstands a potential appeal, would be a boon for advocates of direct democracy, which relies on small armies of people gathering signatures to put proposed changes to state laws before the entire electorate. Twenty-six states allow such citizen-led ballot measures.

A law signed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem last year requires petition circulators to register with the secretary of state and provide personal information including home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. But those "extensive and burdensome" disclosure requirements discriminate against those advocating for ballot measures in violation of the First Amendment because the same rules didn't apply to people actively opposing the measures, U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann ruled last week.

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Open Government
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Federal employees have been battered by government shutdowns and abuse from elected officials. A new survey finds them still proud of what they do but willing to leave government service.

Federal workers say they're proud of their work but would also go elsewhere

While federal workers are proud of what they do, nearly half would leave if they could get a similar job elsewhere, according to a wide-ranging survey of government employees released last week.

The survey comes at a critical time for the federal workforce, which is aging rapidly. Federal workers older than 60 outnumber those younger than 30 by nearly two to one, according to the Office of Personnel Management. Job satisfaction and retention are central indicators that the people who actually operate American democracy have some confidence it's functioning as intended.

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Open Government
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Payment required to read the law? Supreme Court will decide.

The most important legal challenge in decades to a basic tenet of open government — laws should be available to public to read for free — went before the Supreme Court on Monday.

The justices heard arguments in a dispute over whether Georgia may have copyright protections on its annotated legal code books, which means they're not available to the public without cost. It appears to be the first time in more than a century the court has considered the limits of the "government edicts doctrine," which bars copyrights on statutes and legal decisions.

Open records proponents, civil rights groups and the news media say it's unconstitutional to limit the peoples' access to the law books most widely in use. The Trump administration has taken Georgia's side.

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