Published: Jan 26, 2012 7:40 PM EST

MIAMI (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging a state law that limits how much minors may contribute to state and local political campaigns.
    
The lawsuit filed in federal court in West Palm Beach contends the law is unconstitutional because it restricts free speech. The law allows Floridians under 17 to contribute $100 per candidate each election cycle. Adults 18 and above can contribute $500.
    
"It's clear that this Florida law limits a citizen's access to political discourse based solely on age," said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida executive director. "The right to speak politically as well as hear political debate is clearly protected and our laws should encourage everyone, especially young people, to engage with democracy."
    
The law applies only to candidates for state and local offices in Florida. In federal elections, minors and adults can contribute the same amount.
    
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 17-year-old Julie Towbin of Boca Raton, who was prevented in 2011 from purchasing a $150 ticket to a Democratic Party fundraising dinner because of the law. Violations can result in fines of between $1,000 and $10,000 and even trigger potential jail time.
    
Towbin, who will turn 18 in time to vote in the November elections, said says the law marginalizes young people by saying "your voice is worth one-fifth of someone else's."
    
"Florida law gives more speech and political participation rights to corporations and political action committees than 17-year-olds who will vote this year," she said.

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