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League of Women Voters Files Lawsuit Against Cupertino Anti-Nonprofit Speech Ordinance

Press Release / Last Updated:

CUPERTINO, CA — Today, the League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s anti-nonprofit speech ordinance, which requires nonprofit organizations to register as lobbyists. Organizations that fail to register risk being penalized. The League asserts that the ordinance’s definition of “lobbyist” is too vague and chills voter engagement by harming voter service organizations.  

“This ordinance is an attack on nonprofit organizations that seek to educate and empower voters and engage with their elected officials to seek reforms. Ultimately, the voters will suffer,” said Tracey Edwards, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale. “At the League, engaging with state and local officials on behalf of voters and communities is a key part of protecting a fair, equitable, and representative government, and our voices deserve to be heard.” 

“This ordinance violates the First Amendment rights to association and free speech, and ultimately hurts voters who have the right to engage with their elected officials without penalty,” said Celina Stewart, Chief Counsel for the League of Women Voters of the United States.  “The overly broad definition of ‘lobbyist’ places an unnecessary burden on nonprofit organizations like the League of Women Voters and our partners as we work to empower voters and defend democracy through voter participation.” 

The case is brought by the League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale, which is represented by Steptoe & Johnson LLP. 

“On its face, Cupertino’s ordinance treats any organization that occasionally advocates in Cupertino as if the organization and its members were paid lobbyists. That presumption violates the federal and state constitutional protections for free speech, freedom of association and assembly, and the rights of citizens to tell government what they think of the job that government is doing. The presumption that anyone who engages in such activities in Cupertino must file reports and disclose all sources of funds flouts cherished American values and should be declared unconstitutional,“ said Michael Dockterman, a Steptoe partner.  

The League of Women Voters (LWV) is a nonpartisan, grassroots nonprofit dedicated to empowering everyone to fully participate in our democracy. With active Leagues in all 50 states and more than 750 Leagues across the country, we engage in advocacy, education, litigation, and organizing to protect every American’s freedom to vote.  

Read the full complaint here


PRESS CONTACT: Shannon Augustus | [email protected] | (202)768-9578

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