Winter 1985 Home   Newsletters

Fall 1986

Winter 1986

President's Notes (Anne Lee)
Fundraising Results
State Council
LWVUS Convention 1986
Ten Common Myths about Initiative
Security '76 Conference
Last Chance for Akamai Strategist
New State Board Member
Problems in Signature Gathering (Marian Wilkins)
Election Law Study Consensus
Program and Action
League Local News - Honolulu
League Local News - Hawaii County
League Local News - Kauai
League Local News - League Members on Maui
Ed Fund News
Coastweek '86
Bye Bye Herman
Anne Lee

Problems in Signature Gathering


The Honolulu City Council has not been able to do anything to stop sidewalk hustlers from handing out handbills advertising or promoting a religion. However, in February 1986, the City Administration passed a restrictive rule which requires anyone wishing to collect signatures on an initiative petition on Fort Street Mall or in any city park to have a permit. The permit must be applied for 10 days in advance and costs $25.00. (The money would be refunded if no mess was left.) The Department of Parks and Recreation can arbitrarily limit these permits to a very few days per year. This can seriously handicap a petition drive since it usually only lasts a few months.

This is ironic because the courts have not allowed the City to ban the handbillers or religious solicitors because it interfered with constitutional rights. The court rulings did not stop the City Administration from adopting this restrictive rule. The City Council's legal advisor has rendered a legal opinion recommending the rule be rescinded but this advice has been ignored thus far. It may take a costly court case to make the change and we know who will have to pay for that.


It is pretty clear that legal decisions have guaranteed the right of free speech (no matter how annoying it can sometimes be) on public property. But what about private property?

In recent years the trend has been that more and more shopping is done in private shopping centers rather than in shops surrounded by public side-walks. Anyone who needs to collect signatures on a petition would be hard pressed to do so without being allowed access to shopping malls. But why should the person or corporation owning the mall want to allow petition gathering in their mall -- an activity that is sure to annoy or offend at least part of the customers? On the other hand, what about the petitioners? They have the right to petition granted by law, but if they cannot petition where the people are, it would be meaningless.

Signature gatherers here in Hawaii run into the problem all the time, because few people are aware of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the subject.

The Court reached a rather Solomon-like decision in how to do a Constitutional balancing act between these two conflicting rights. It said that shopping centers are the modern gathering places, and as such, "reasonable access" must be given to signature gatherers. The management must allot a spot for petitioners to work in. Petitioners must abide by certain rules of conduct and cannot necessarily roam around the mall. However, at the same time, the management cannot banish them to some dark recess or the hinterlands of the parking lot.

Many modern malls are designed with an area reserved specifically for such occasions. In smaller or older malls the management can designate an area for signature gathering. In this manner, both sides have been forced to compromise, and it seems to be a good decision that everyone can live with.

Marian Wilkins

Winter 1985 Home   Newsletters Winter 1986