Rhode Island Affiliate, American Civil Liberties Union


Open Government
Court Cases Over the Years


The right to vote remains among the most fundamental of rights in a democratic society, and the R.I. ACLU has been extremely vigilant in challenging government efforts to limit or impede the exercise of that right. Below are some of the voting rights cases in which the Affiliate has been involved over the years:

1973: Capalbo v. Chariho Regional School Committee

Successful lawsuit challenging a school district practice of barring persons who did not meet certain property tax qualifications from voting in the annual School District Town Meeting.

1979: R.I. Minority Caucus v. Baronian

Successful court challenge to a Board of Canvassers practice of deputizing as voter registrars only persons who had been recommended by three private organizations.

1980: Lancellotta v. West Warwick

The first of a half-dozen successful Affiliate court challenges to town ordinances banning the posting of election signs in residential areas.

1984: Project Vote R.I. v. Hackett

Favorably settled federal lawsuit on behalf of a voter registration group which had been barred from registering voters in the lobbies of state unemployment offices.

1984: Puerto Rican Political Action Committee v. DiStefano

Successful federal lawsuit challenging, as an illegal literacy test, a complex state “verification procedure” for newly registered voters.

1992: Pitochelli v. Town of Johnston

Successful federal lawsuit requiring the Town of Johnston to reapportion its city council and school committee districts after failing to do so for more than twenty years.

1993: Vote Choice v. DiStefano

Federal lawsuit successfully challenging a state law requiring that the names of people making small donations to controversial PAC’s be made public.

1994: Ayers-Schaffner v. DiStefano

Successful federal lawsuit on behalf of residents who had been barred from voting in a rescheduled primary election if they had not voted in the original, illegally conducted primary.

1996: League of Women Voters of R.I. v. R.I. State Board of Elections

Successful federal lawsuit requiring the state to take immediate action to fully comply with the National Voter Registration Act.

2001: Bonas v. Town of North Smithfield

Successful federal lawsuit challenging a town’s decision not to hold regularly-scheduled local elections in 2001, relying on the results of a 1998 referendum which authorized a change in town elections from odd to even numbered years “beginning in the year 2002.”

2002: Abdullah-Odiase v. Begin

Successful appeal on behalf of a candidate for office whose name was stricken from the ballot because one of her nomination papers allegedly contained signatures not witnessed by her.

2003: Metts v. Almond

Successful “friend of the court” brief in this redistricting lawsuit, arguing that the lower court improperly dismissed claims that black voting power in Providence was improperly diluted.

2004: R.I. Parents for Progress v. Board of Elections

Successful lawsuit challenging the state’s plan to disqualify “provisional ballots” cast by certain voters who had registered by mail.

2006: R.I. ACLU v. Begin

Successful federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of various aspects of the state’s campaign finance law restricting the rights of individuals to campaign on ballot referenda questions.

2010: Fontes v. City of Central Falls

Successful suit challenging the disqualification of a Mayoral candidate based on a law barring voters from signing more than one nomination paper for the same political office.

See Other Highlighted Open Government Cases:

Return to: Recent Open Government Cases

128 Dorrance Street Suite 220    Providence, RI 02903  dot  Phone (401) 831-7171       Fax (401) 831-7175     riaclu@riaclu.org

Thiswww.riaclu.org is the website of the Rhode Island Affiliate, ACLU and the ACLU Foundation of Rhode Island. 

Learn more about the distinction between these two components of the RI ACLU.