By Terri Hall

Contrary to the spin of Kerrville Forward, the Political Action Committee (PAC) started by Democrats and liberal, RINOcrat Republicans, and the local media narrative, We the People – Liberty in Action just scored some major wins. After LIA filed its lawsuit to protect our constitutional rights under the First Amendment from the city of Kerrville’s sweeping peddler/solicitor and electioneering ordinances, we sought an immediate Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and preliminary injunction. Federal courts do not automatically grant a hearing, like they do in state court. So when LIA was notified that Judge Xavier Rodriguez granted us a TRO hearing for Monday, April 22 (the first day of early voting), the city of Kerrville backed-off its wholesale ban of anyone actually reaching a voter at the polls. Before the hearing, in the the city’s response to our motion for a TRO and preliminary injunction, the city declared to the court it would not be enforcing four whole sections of their electioneering ordinance.

Let that sink in. The city surrendered, we won — at least on the most urgent aspect of its tyrannical attempt at election interference.

In what we believe was an attempt to remove our ability to distribute our voter guides to voters at the polls, the city passed an electioneering restriction that goes far beyond what state election law allows, effectively banning all contact with voters for 240 feet from the entrance to a poll (instead of the state-mandated 100 feet). All city elections take place at the Callioux Theater. If you measure that parking lot, the 240 foot mark encompasses nearly the entire parking lot. The only place to access any voter would be if a car entered on Jefferson St instead of Main St. (Junction Hwy) and a voter decided to park way out there instead of right next to the entrance. The city banned any canopy/tent (to protect volunteers from the heat) from being placed near actual voters, forcing tents onto the grass and in the ‘back 40,’ far away from voters, and no where near the entrance to the poll, requiring a considerable walk through a largely empty parking lot when they could park much closer, more conveniently anyplace else.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, even after the city was notified it was being sued, it doubled-down on its election interference by sending out a notice late Friday afternoon that it would now be dictating where canopies could be erected within the already ridiculous ‘approved’ electioneering zones, and that all election workers cars would be parked along the tent areas, further barring our volunteers from being able to reach a single voter. Our attorneys called it the ‘Great Wall of China.’

Under normal circumstances we’d be handing out over 3,000 voter guides over the period of early voting and Election Day, but under this lockdown, we’d be lucky to pass out 100. The city’s overreach was so outrageous, we begged the court to bring sanity back to our elections.

So fast forward back to Monday’s hearing. The city back-tracked on what clearly looked like election interference to any casual observer, and allowed LIA volunteers to once again approach voters in the parking lot and sidewalks — a victory for LIA and the First Amendment!

The judge asked if we wished to continue to challenge the city for emergency relief from the court given the city’s retreat, and we did wish to push forward since the city didn’t say it planned to revoke or re-write the ordinance to remove the threat permanently, they merely claimed to not be enforcing it right now (while they’re under the microscope of a judge). There was nothing to keep the city from turning that switch back on without the court’s action.

The judge was visibly irritated throughout the hearing, and questioned whether or not we even had standing. Typically, in a First Amendment case you do not have to be a resident nor does one need to be fined or arrested under the ordinance in order to have standing to challenge it in court. The chilling effect such overreach has on political and religious speech in particular is real and compelling and applies to anyone engaging in such activities. But the judge felt there needed to be more submitted in order to achieve standing, especially for emergency relief. After trying to make the case for emergency relief and a preliminary injunction for two and a half hours, the judge ultimately did not grant either. But that doesn’t mean LIA didn’t get a victory. We did. The city had to reverse course and tell the court it wouldn’t enforce key sections of its own ordinance in order to avoid the embarrassment of a TRO and/or an injunction. LIA’s First Amendment right to engage in political speech ultimately prevailed.

It’s important to note a few things. One, the city had previously told the public at city council meetings that its ordinance did in fact include activity on public sidewalks. Yet in court, the city said the ordinance was limited to in the streets only. So these concessions by the city are a major victory!

However, while the city’s outside attorney testified to the judge that no one at the city was preventing cars from passing by the tent zones at the Callioux during early voting, we have photos that show cones put up by the city preventing cars from passing by the tents and prohibiting cars from traveling through from the Jefferson St. entrance to the main parking area of the Callioux. So the city lied to the court. Given the judge’s disposition, this likely won’t sit well with him as the case continues.

Speaking of the status of the case, the media and the city fabricated a narrative where LIA has no standing and therefore no case. End of story. But the TRO hearing was just involving emergency relief sought to ensure the city’s election interference didn’t result in irreparable harm to the outcome of the current election that’s ongoing. LIA already got that by winning back the ability to distribute voter guides in the parking lot and on sidewalks. While the tent locations and cones blocking voters’ cars from accessing the tent areas are still outstanding issues we’d have liked the court to grant relief, it’s abundantly clear that if we had not filed suit and gotten a TRO hearing, the city would not have retreated nor given any concessions.

The case will continue to move forward, likely over the next several years, before a final conclusion on the merits will be made. But rest assured, our First Amendment rights must be protected, and we know whatever hurdles we face will be well worth the fight.