Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is arguing in the U.S. Supreme Court that Ohio’s election law banning candidates from making false statements with malice is unconstitutional.
DeWine says the law has a “chilling” impact on free speech and on organizations that want to advertise against a candidate, according to legal filings.
“Ohio law prohibits the use of false statements in both candidate campaigns and ballot issue campaigns,” reads the website of Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler. “Included in statute are specific prohibitions against making false statements about a candidate’s schooling or training, indictments or convictions, treatment for a mental illness or voting record as a public official.”
DeWine argues that the law “polices not just false speech, but speech that indisputably is protected under the First Amendment.”
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The legal challenge involves a case in which a political action committee was accused of violating state election laws by making false statements in a tweet, as well as another case in which a billboard owner refused to put up a nonprofit’s sign after the candidate it criticized, former Rep. Steve Driehaus, Democrat, filed a complaint with the state elections commission.
DeWine says the law intimidates opponents and makes them waste time and money responding to complaints.
“The speaker is forced to use time and resources responding to the complaint, typically at the exact moment that the campaign is peaking and his time and resources are best used elsewhere,” DeWine wrote. “In other words, the state has constructed a process that allows its enforcement mechanisms to be used to extract a cost from those seeking to speak out on elections, right at the most crucial time for that particular type of speech. And if the allegations turn out to be unfounded, there is no possibility of timely remedy.”