Delaware Public Media

Analyzing ruling on Delaware Elections Disclosure Act

Jul 24, 2015

Last week – Delaware won a key legal battle in the state’s effort to bolster the First State’s campaign finance laws.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overruled a Delaware District Court judge in a case involving Delaware Elections Disclosure Act.  The law was passed in 2012, signed by Gov. Jack Markell and enacted on 2013, but was quickly challenged by an advocacy group.

The law requires third-party groups and individuals to disclose their donors who give 100 dollars or more to the state elections commissioner if they spend more than $500 on advertisements or other communications that refer to a candidate in an upcoming election. 

A conservative advocacy group Delaware Strong Families had an issue the Delaware Elections Disclosure Act regarding its publication of a voter’s guide.  They said the law was overly board and created burdensome regulations and would chill its right to free speech. 

In April 2014, Delaware District court Sue Robinson agreed with Delaware Strong Families’ argument and barred the state from enforcing the law until the group’s lawsuit made its way through the court.

The Third Circuit overruled Robinson last week – allowing the state to start enforcing the law. 

I sat down with new Widener University Delaware Law dean Rod Smolla earlier this week to get his analysis of the decision.