AG Candidate: Office Shouldn't "Defend Constitutional Violations"
The Democratic candidate for Ohio Attorney General says if elected this November, heâll make voting rights a key priority of his office. Attorney General candidate David Pepper says heâd create a unit within the attorney generalâs Civil Rights Division to investigate reports of voter intimidation, suppression or fraud. He says heâd also inform legislators if a bill created voting restrictions he found to be unconstitutional. And he says if the general assembly passes new voting rules laws he concludes are unconstitutional, heâll file a court brief saying soâand he says in some cases he may decline to defend them in court. âIf the legislature is violating the constitutional rights of your citizens, the attorney general doesnât simply blindly defend constitutional violations," Pepper says. "The attorney general as a separate officeholder has the duty to speak out on behalf of citizensâ constitutional rights.â? Current Attorney General Mike DeWine agrees he can speak out against laws he finds unconstitutional. But he says itâs the AGâs job to defend state law. âYou always have an obligation to defend the state," DeWine says. "What we did in one particular case where we felt that the law was unconstitutional, clearly unconstitutional, my office still defended that case.â? That case involved a law against false elections advertising. While his office defended the law, DeWine also filed a friend-of-the-court brief questioning its constitutionality. Pepper says heâd have done the same thing with laws limiting early voting hours in 2012, and changing ballot access rules for third parties. DeWineâs office helped defend those, but didnât protest their constitutionality, and judges later blocked them â though DeWine has appealed the ruling on third parties.