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Residents: Law hindering eminent domain efforts

ABERDEEN — A group of Lafayette County residents have told a federal judge that Mississippi’s campaign finance law stops them from campaigning as they want to for an eminent domain constitutional amendment.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock heard arguments Tuesday in Aberdeen but did not immediately rule.

The plaintiffs said the law limits their fundamental free speech and association rights. They want the law declared unconstitutional and unenforceable.

The proposed amendment, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, would prohibit the government from taking private property by eminent domain and transferring it to other persons.

The law, which requires registration and financial reporting for groups advocating views about ballot issues.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Paul Avelar, said the registration, reporting and disclosure requirements for political committees “creates burdens” and “chills” their activity.

Mississippi law requires political candidate and committee registration after raising or spending more than $200.

Avelar said the plaintiffs want to spend up to $1,000 to publicly support their views.

He told her Mississippi’s laws “scare people away from being involved in politics.”

Assistant Attorney General Harold Pizzetta told Aycock he doesn’t believe “a court has the authority to rewrite a statute,” which is what setting a $1,000 threshold amounts to.

If the law is unconstitutional, it must be struck down and open for the Legislature to adopt another, he said.

Pizzetta said disclosure about who spends money on political campaigns “is greatly outweighed by the benefits to society.”

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