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Ohio: Kidwell cert petition filed in U.S. Supreme Court

A cert petition was filed yesterday in Kidwell v. City of Union, Ohio. The question presented is: "Whether the Sixth Circuit erred by holding that the government speech doctrine allows the government to spend public funds directly to influence the outcome of an election." Here are the opening paragraphs of the Statement of the Case:

This case arises from a series of disputed ballot initiatives relating to the creation and funding of a fire department by respondent City of Union, Ohio. Before 1997, Union’s fire and emergency services were provided by neighboring Randolph Township. In that year, in response to a potential merger between Randolph Township and the nearby Village of Clayton, the Union City Council passed an emergency resolution establishing its own city fire department. App. 2a Petitioners Ronald Kidwell, Julie Johnson, and Charles Arnett, Union taxpayers, challenged the resolution via a ballot initiative. App. 2-3a.

The election was preceded by a lively campaign in which the Union City Council used public funds to oppose the initiative. App. 3a. It is undisputed that the Union City Council used city workers and city equipment to hang a “Vote No” campaign banner across Main Street, mailed campaign leaflets to residents, advertised in local newspapers, and used the town newsletter to exhort city residents to vote against the initiative. Id. The city manager also worked closely with members of a local Political Action Committee (PAC) that opposed the initiative to coordinate the campaign expenditures of the city and the PAC. 6th Cir. App. 188-89, 216.

Thanks to Christopher Landau, one of the counsel for the petitioners for sending the Petition to me. You may download it here.

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