Election law decision correct

Published 10:27 am Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Correctly calling it “inherently flawed,” a federal judge in Cincinnati on Thursday struck down an Ohio election law banning political “false statements” in campaigns.

Though probably well-intentioned, the law represented an unconstitutional restraint of free speech and was being unfairly used as a political weapon.

The 1995 law set up the Ohio Elections Commission as the arbiter of truth to determine who could be charged with telling lies about a political opponent. Besides the obvious First Amendment problem of creating restrictions on speech, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Black noted that “we can all agree that lies are bad. The problem is, at least with respect to some political speech, that there is no clear way to determine whether a political statement is a lie or the truth, and we certainly do not want the government deciding what is political truth” …

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The suit that led to the ruling was brought by a conservative anti-abortion group, the Susan B. Anthony List, but the ruling has support from across the political spectrum.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine made the unusual move of filing a brief arguing against the law even though he is legally bound to defend state laws. Liberal advocacy groups also called for it to be struck down.

Upholding free speech for all and letting voters decide is the right approach.


The Columbus Dispatch