Court halts Wash. limits on late ballot donations

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) A federal appeals court is striking down Washington state's restrictions on large donations to ballot measures.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a decision Thursday that the rules are unconstitutional because they restrain free speech. The laws had prohibited donations exceeding $5,000 in the 21 days before a general election.

Washington's attorney general had argued that that the rules were necessary to ensure that mail-in voters knew who was funding the ballot measures. The court says voters who cast a ballot before Election Day are making that choice on their own. Judges also say the rules prevent individuals and political committees from responding to developing events in the campaign.

The court did approve of a requirement to identify donors who contribute more than $25.

The attorney general's office says it is reviewing the decision.