You’ve probably never heard of Edna Davis. But the 80-year Republican from northeastern Ohio will have a role on Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments about an Ohio law that bans false speech in election campaigns.
As a Geauga County commissioner in 1985, Davis became one of only two people ever convicted of violating the law when she gave information to a GOP candidate to use in a newspaper advertisement against his opponent.
A judge sentenced her to 60 days in jail and fined her $1,000. Although the judge suspended the jail sentence and reduced the fine to $300, he placed Davis on probation for two years, forcing her to get permission from parole officers to visit her brother in California.
“I can laugh now,’’ said Davis, who will not attend the arguments. “Back then I didn’t laugh for a year. It was probably one of the worst days of my life. I was very, very angry and hurt, too. There was no really good reason for it.”
Three decades later, the justices are hearing oral arguments on the same law. They will decide whether the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List can challenge the law in federal court in Cincinnati.
The case stems from a 2010 midterm congressional election campaign in which the nonprofit organization wanted to allege that by voting for the 2010 health-reform law, then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Cincinnati, supported paying for abortions with taxpayer dollars.
When Driehaus’ attorney threatened to sue, the owner of a billboard that was to show the advertisement declined to put it up. Driehaus also filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission, which found “probable cause” that the advertisement violated the law.