MADISON -- An anti-abortion protester is challenging the state's ban on felons running for public office in an attempt to get his name on the Nov. 7 ballot for state Assembly.
Colin Hudson of Milwaukee has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Madison seeking to add his name as a Constitution Party candidate to the race for the 12th Assembly District.
His lawsuit challenges a 1996 amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution barring felons from seeking or holding public office.
Hudson claims the amendment violates the U.S. Constitution's promise of representative government and punishes him for actions prior to the date it was approved. Voters statewide approved the amendment.
Hudson, 58, has been convicted twice of violating a federal law that bars protesters from blocking the entrance to abortion clinics. He was sentenced to 120 days behind bars in 1997 and 180 days in 1995. In both cases, the protests took place before voters approved the anti-felon amendment.
His lawsuit names state Elections Board director Kevin Kennedy, who told Hudson in August that his felony convictions meant he could not qualify for the ballot.
The U.S. Constitution requires representatives to be U.S. citizens who are at least 25 years old but makes no mention of whether felons are eligible. Because the Constitution governs election to federal office, the state ban "does not appear to preclude a felon running for a federal office," Elections Board lawyer George Dunst said.
The 1996 amendment only cleaned up archaic language that said those convicted of "infamous crimes" could not run, assistant attorney general Thomas Balistreri wrote in a recent filing.
The U.S. Constitution only guarantees a representative form of government, not the right to run for office, he added.