Promoting Life and Free Speech - Ohio Right to Life Files Lawsuit against Ohio Elections Commission and Secretary of State

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The Ohio Right to Life Society filed a lawsuit today in federal court to secure the organization's ability to engage in issue advocacy during the critical days before the November general election.

Ohio Right to Life is presently not permitted to advocate for an issue when voters are most engaged…30 days before an election

The Ohio Right to Life Society filed a lawsuit today in federal court (docket number 2:08CV492) to secure the organization's ability to engage in issue advocacy during the critical days before the November general election.

A ruling in favor of Ohio Right to Life would free advocacy groups of all ideologies from government restriction that inhibits free speech rights prior to Election Day. Current state law bars citizen organizations, like Ohio Right to Life, from using funds in their general treasury to run advertisements mentioning the name of a political candidate within 30 days of an election.

The Ohio Right to Life Society is dedicated to promoting life throughout the state through legislative action and citizen activism. With this lawsuit, Ohio Right to Life is also promoting free speech for all advocacy groups in Ohio.

"Ohio Right to Life is presently not permitted to advocate for an issue when voters are most engaged…30 days before an election," said Mike Gonidakis, executive director of the Ohio Right to Life Society. "Such a speech blackout period is entirely contrary to the First Amendment and harms grassroots organizations of all ideologies."

Ohio Right to Life, represented by the law firm Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff and the Center for Competitive Politics, argued in court filings that the Ohio state law barring it from running advertisements mentioning candidates' names close to an election is impermissible in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision last summer in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL).

In that case, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that political speech can only be regulated if the advertisement contains "express advocacy" or "is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate."

"Our mission is to promote life. We want the right to talk about life issues at anytime - regardless of when an election is scheduled," Gonidakis explained. "The Supreme Court has recognized these rights at the federal level; we believe it is time for the Ohio Elections Commission to recognize our right to free speech."

Attorney William Todd of Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, & Aronoff filed Ohio Right to Life Society Inc. v. Ohio Election Commission in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

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Mike Gonidakis
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