LOS ANGELES - The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed an amended complaint in Porter v. Jones today in federal court. The ACLU/SC initially sought a temporary restraining order against California Secretary of State Bill Jones for threatening criminal prosecution against a web-site similar to Porter's "votexchange2000.com," which helped like-minded voters connect on-line and discuss voting strategies. The court denied the request for a temporary restraining order, and Porter did not re-open his web-site. The ACLU now seeks a permanent injunction against Jones and damages for Porter and other plaintiffs, alleging that their Constitutional rights were violated and will likely be violated again in future elections if Jones's threats are allowed to stand.
The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego, the National Voting Rights Institute, Jamin Raskin and Alan Dershowitz join as co-counsel in the case.
"Even the world's totalitarian governments are recognizing that they cannot control speech and association on the Internet," said Peter Eliasberg, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, "but California, cradle of the web, apparently still needs to learn the lesson. The concept of matching like-minded voters in cyberspace for the purpose of creating a common voting strategy is both revolutionary and completely in line with the freedoms set forth in our Constitution. Voter-matching is here to stay, and Luddites who think they can stop this exercise of our fundamental freedoms of association and speech will discover that efforts to censor internet speech and disband cyber-communities will not be tolerated and will not succeed."
"The razor's edge margins in this election," said Eliasberg, "make crystal clear that every vote counts. A few hundred votes here or a thousand there could have changed the course of this election. Voter-matching sites give individuals the tools to help ensure that their voices are truly heard and their interests are fully represented. That's what democracy is all about. And that's why the ACLU and American voters will not allow Secretary Jones to squash this constitutionally protected activity."
"Mr. Porter has already registered the domain name 'votexchange2004.com,'" said Eliasberg. "This issue is alive and needs to be settled. The regular nature of elections and of third party candidates means that the threat to Porter's and others' civil rights will likely recur. Porter and voters alike need to hear that their rights to free speech and free association don't end when they get on-line."