The Susan B. Anthony List (SBAL), an anti-abortion, non-profit organization, filed a lawsuit against an Ohio election law last month, claiming it violated First Amendment rights. The suit arose over SBAL’s attempt to create a billboard insinuating that Ohio Rep. Steve Driehaus voted for President Barack Obama’s health care reform bill to support taxpayer-funded abortions.
However, according to CBS News, the bill does not require any health plans to offer abortion coverage. Not only were the SBAL’s assumptions about the bill incorrect, but also Driehaus has been constantly noted as an anti-abortion Democrat.
The bottom line is that the billboard contained false statements about Driehaus.
The proposed billboard was never displayed thanks to an Ohio state law that said, “no person … shall knowingly and with intent … make a false statement concerning the voting record of a candidate or public official.”
This statute wasn’t designed to prevent anyone from voicing their opinions, but to prevent politicians and special interest groups from lying to citizens and obstructing the democratic process.
The SBAL challenged the validity of the Ohio statute and claimed that it violated its freedom of speech and was too vague. If the SBAL did not knowingly and maliciously make invalid assumptions against Driehaus, it can be assumed that they neglected to do proper research, or attempted to misguide citizens.
Coincidentally, according to the SBAL’s own website, Driehaus’ opponent, Steve Chabot, is endorsed by the SBAL.
With so many confusing political ads bombarding TVs, newspapers, radios and billboards, it’s essential that clarity, honesty and integrity be given priority in the creation of such ads.
If the Ohio law was to reach the Supreme Court and be ruled unconstitutional, any other state with similar laws would be forced to amend them, including Florida.
The Florida version of this law, statute 104.271, prohibits “false or malicious charges against, or false statements about, opposing candidates.” With so many campaign ads running, we need laws like this more than ever.
In fact, according to Politifact.com, on Oct. 20, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott made the false claim that his opponent, Democrat Alex Sink, plans to increase government spending by $12.5 billion. In reality, nearly 75 percent of her proposed increase stems from plans to build a new light rail system – something that would have to be paid for regardless of who is elected governor.
With Election Day approaching, voters must know exactly what candidates stand for so they can have their interests sufficiently represented. Lying to voters is insulting and upsetting to the electoral process. The SBAL simply cannot be allowed to succeed in this task.
Mudslinging is already an overused tool in the run for office, and it is safe to assume that voters would prefer straightforward answers when gathering vital information to make such important decisions.
Xavier Vega is a sophomore majoring in creative writing.