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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tea Party Sues Butler County Board of Elections: Says Supporter Banned From Access To Voters Outside Precinct In Union Hall

CINCINNATI (TDB) --  The Tea Party wants a federal restraining order that would prohibit officials in Butler County -- John Boehner's backyard -- from interfering with supporters who gather petitions opposing President Obama's health care law.  The Tea Party plans to set up outside an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall in Liberty Township that serves as a voting precinct.  It says a federal judge should intervene to: "Stop the unconstitutional restrictions imposed by the IBEW in cooperation with the Butler County Board of Elections."  The lawsuit claims a Liberty
Township Tea Party activist, Kathy Dirr, was previously ordered off the property and threatened with arrest last May during Primary Day voting.  U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett has set a 3 p.m. hearing on Oct. 18 at the federal courthouse in Cincinnati on the request for a temporary restraining order.  Lawyers Chris Finney and Curt C. Hartman represent the Liberty Township Tea Party.  The Case is No. 1:10-CV-707 in the Southern District of Ohio.

The Tea Party says Dirr was seeking signatures on a petition in support of the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment, which seeks a statewide referendum aimed a limiting the reach of the new federal health care law:

"On the day of the primary election, Ms. Dirr set up a table outside of the electioneering-free zone at the IBEW Local 648 Union Hall from which she could engage in discussing and advocacy with her fellow citizens and solicit signatures on the petition.  Her table contained a sign which announced "Stop Obama Care' and was located outside of the electioneering free zone as was marked by the precinct election officials.  Neither the table nor Ms. Dirr obstructed anyone's access or posed any safety hazard.

"After Ms. Dirr had been at the IBEW Local 648 Local Union Hall and collecting signatures on the petitions for approximately 10 minutes, four precinct election officials (who work under direction and supervision of the Board of Elections) came outside and approached Ms. Dirr, inquiring if she was 100 feet away from the entrance to the hall.  The election officials insisted that Ms. Dirr move her table approximately 10 feet from its initial location, which Ms. Dir did and from this new location continued to solicit signatures for the petition she was circulating.

"Then approximately 10 minutes later, Defendant Jeffrey McGuffey, who is the membership development director for the IBEW, approached Ms. Dirr and demanded that she immediately cease her activities and leave the polling place all together.  But in light of Ms. Dirr's knowledge that the same or similar activities having been allowed to take place outside of the electioneering-free zone during the course of prior elections for at least 10 years, Ms. Dirr indicated that she would not leave until the Butler County Board of Elections indicated that her continued presence at the polling place location was not permissible."

Eventually, the lawsuit contends, the county elections director, Betty McGary, sent an e-mail saying that the union could decide who it would allow on its property.  Dirr said she stopped seeking signatures.  The lawsuit says she wants to show up again on Election Day Nov. 2 and resume collecting signatures outside the voting precinct.  The lawsuit says the Tea Party and its members should be allowed to "freely disseminaate information of critical importance to the elections, government and politics on election days outside of the electioneering-free zone at polling place . . . "

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