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LWV of Cupertino-Sunnyvale Opposes City’s Motion to Dismiss in City Ordinance Lawsuit

Ordinance language must be amended to avoid chilling voter engagement in Cupertino

Press Release / Last Updated:

CUPERTINO, CA — Today, the League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale filed its opposition to the City of Cupertino’s motion to dismiss the federal lawsuit filed by the League that challenges the city’s “lobbyist regulation” ordinance. The League is represented by Steptoe & Johnson LLP. 

“The League is not opposed to ordinances regulating paid lobbyists; we are opposed to badly written ordinances that harm voters,” said Tracey Edwards, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale. “Some have implied that opposition to an ordinance regulating paid lobbyists would be unreasonable. We agree. Unfortunately, the city ordinance does not make a meaningful distinction between paid lobbyists and nonprofit advocates like the League.” 

As it is written, the city ordinance defines “lobbying” as “attempting to influence a Legislative Action or Administrative Action of the City,” and defines “influencing” as any “purposeful communication” that promotes, supports, modifies, opposes, causes the delay or abandonment of conduct, or intentionally affects the behavior of a city official through persuasion, information, incentives, statistics, studies, or analyses. Those actions are the essence of political speech. This overbroad language would effectively chill the participation of regular citizens and good-government groups like the League to express their views on local government. 

“Freedom of speech and freedom to address the government are core protections afforded by both the California Constitution and the US Constitution. To regulate political speech, an ordinance must be narrowly tailored, and this ordinance is written far too broadly. The City could fix the wording, but they won’t, so the Courts will have to do so,” said Michael Dockterman, a Steptoe partner. “Imposing conditions on people who want to speak to their government officials is antithetical to the founding principles of this nation.” 

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.

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