Honesty is such a lonely wordWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
All candidates running for office want you to believe that they are better than their opponent. They stress their positives and, when possible, their opponent’s negatives. This also means every campaign season claims are made that a candidate or their campaign is being misleading.
Ohio does have election laws, but the only way action can be taken is if someone files a complaint.
The complaint process through the Ohio Elections Commission requires written documentation citing the section of the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) alleged to be in violation. It also requires copies of all materials in question before a probable cause hearing is held and demands, “The burden of proof for any complaint rests with the party bringing the complaint.”
This is why many times candidates or campaigns will make accusations via news releases instead of opting for the complaint process, which then places the media in the position of deciding if it should or should not be covered.
If a person is found to have filed a “frivolous complaint,” action can be taken against them and making false accusations when a complaint is not filed could result with a complaint filed against the accuser.
Most complaints are filed by someone who has a political interest where a candidate or issue they are in support of is the one being “harmed” by the actions of another.
What does this mean to the average voter? We have a system where political insiders are policing political insiders.
The ORC is clear on the topic of what is against Ohio law. One example, 3517.21, with two of the most common problem areas:
“No person, during the course of any campaign for nomination or election to public office or office of a political party, by means of campaign materials, including sample ballots, an advertisement on radio or television or in a newspaper or periodical, a public speech, press release, or otherwise, shall knowingly and with intent to affect the outcome of such campaign do any of the following:
“(1) Use the title of an office not currently held by a candidate in a manner that implies that the candidate does currently hold that office or use the term “re-elect” when the candidate has never been elected at a primary, general, or special election to the office for which he or she is a candidate;
“(10) Post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.”
An informed voter is the best weapon against misleading campaign material. Those who use misleading material do so because they assume you are uninformed and they know that even if a complaint is filed, chances are they reached more of you with the misleading information than will find out about a complaint or action taken.
While the complaint process exists to discourage violations of Ohio law, you are the first line of defense.
As an update to the April 25 column, “Exploring state, local issues,” on Lucas County ballot issues for the May 4 primary election, the Toledo-Lucas County League of Women Voters has endorsed Issue 4, which is the Springfield Local Schools proposed additional levy for 3.9 mills.
That action had not been taken when the column went to press.
Toledo Free Press contributor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog Glass City Jungle.com.
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