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ACLU says Wixom ordinance that allows neighborhoods to ban political canvassers is illegal

Posted at 6:17 PM, Apr 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-22 18:17:55-04

WIXOM, Mich. (WXYZ) — Should a neighborhood association have the right to ban political canvassers? A city ordinance in Wixom allows them to do just that. Now the ACLU has filed a lawsuit saying the city and the neighborhood association are violating canvassers’ rights.

“I wasn’t aware of the ordinance. I didn’t know what was going on. I was told the cops were being called on me,” said Nick Spagnuolo.

The Wixom resident says he was going door to door working to encourage people to vote on a proposal to address gerrymandering last fall when it happened. He soon learned he was breaking a city ordinance.

“It is a first amendment right for political speech,” said Spagnuolo.

He called Wixom leaders and asked for change. City council responded, discussed it and voted against changing the law. The law allows neighborhood associations to make rules against canvassers, which the city will then enforce.

Spagnuolo says when he listened to public comment during the meeting he came to believe people do not understand what a canvasser is. Canvassers go door to door to share or learn political information. People voiced concerns that they wouldn’t be able to keep salesmen, which would be called peddlers, out of their neighborhoods.

Spagnuolo is not the only plaintiff. The lawsuit was also filed for Michigan Liberation, a group that says it would like to canvass in Wixom. Another plaintiff is a resident in the Loon Lake Woods subdivision.

“Plaintiffs Julia Long-Ackland and Gary Ackland (the “Acklands”) are residents of the Loon Lake Woods subdivision in Wixom. The Acklands are civic- minded individuals who want to engage with, and receive information from canvassers. However, the Acklands’ neighborhood association, Defendant Homeowners Association, acting pursuant to the Wixom ordinance, have posted a “No Canvassing” sign in the entrance to the Acklands’ neighborhood. As a result, canvassers no longer come to the Acklands home to engage with them about important topics of the day, including the upcoming May 7 election,” explains the lawsuit.

So what does the City of Wixom have to say?

7 Action News spoke to Steven Brown. He says after city leaders receive the lawsuit and review it they will discuss what to do next. They believe the ordinance is legal.