Judge Strikes Down Ohio's False Statement Campaign Law As Unconstitutional

The Ohio statehouse Capitol building in Columbus, Ohio.
The Ohio statehouse Capitol building in Columbus, Ohio.

A federal judge has ruled that Ohio's ban on false statements against candidates seeking office is unconstitutional.

The Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-abortion group, challenged the campaign law when they attempted to put up billboards accusing then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) of supporting taxpayer-funded abortion by voting in favor of the Affordable Care Act. The billboard owner chose not to post the ads for fear of legal action after Driehaus filed a formal complaint against the ads' message with the Ohio Elections Commission.

Driehaus dropped the case after he lost his re-election bid, so a federal judge ruled the anti-abortion group could no longer challenge the law's constitutionality. An appeals court agreed, and the Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court.

This time around, the anti-abortion group found success. U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black ruled Thursday that the Ohio Elections Commission can no longer enforce political false statement laws.

Black clarified that his denouncement of false statement laws does not translate to approval of deceit on the campaign trail.

"Lies have no place in the political arena and serve no purpose other than to undermine the integrity of the democratic process," Black wrote in the ruling. "The problem is that, at times, there is no clear way to determine whether a political statement is a lie or the truth. What is certain, however, is that we do not want the Government (i.e., the Ohio Elections Commission) deciding what is political truth -- for fear that the Government might persecute those who criticize it."

Black said it should be up to voters to decide which campaign allegations are true, and which are false. He also noted that a federal appeals court also struck down Minnesota's false statement laws as unconstitutional just over a week ago.

The anti-abortion group celebrated the ruling on its Twitter account.

Read the judge's ruling below:



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