On primary Election day in 2012 a Democratic candidate for the General Assembly was threatened with arrest and his campaign materials were confiscated. It led to a two year legal battle.
That candidate is Zach Mulholland, a local attorney who found out that when you get involved in politics, it bears no resemblence to what you learned in school.
A campaign flyer became the source of his problems. Mullholland, his family, and supporters were handing it out at polling places on primary Election day in 2012..
“And so it just said ‘Vote Democrat,’ he said, “and then it listed candidates that were going to be on the Democratic ballot.”
Trouble is Dan Forestal, the eventual winner of the race, was the slated candidate and the Election Board found that the flyer violated the slating statute.
When the flyers were taken from Mulholland he decided to sue.
“It’s about the idea that you can communicate to voters,” he said, “that you can exercise the fundamental right to engage in the political process.”
Now Federal Judge Sarah Evans Barker has ordered the case against Mulholland be dropped and, she ordered, the statute should never be enforced again.
Ken Falk is Mulholland’s attorney. “The statute as written is so broad,” said Falk, “that it criminallizes me writing you a letter saying vote for these two people.”
Zach Mulholland spent $326 on the flyers and will now be reimbursed. His attorney fees, about $80,000, will also be paid.
“I don’t know what the final tally is,” said Mulholland, “but I’m gonna guess it’s over a half a million dollars that has been spent defending a law that a first year law student could tell you is unenforceable.”
“(The statute) appeared to be there solely to protect the ability of the Parties,” said Falk, “to stifle people engaging in what the Supreme Court has said was the most important speech of all which is political speech.”
By the way, Mulholland believes he would have lost the 2012 race even if the flyers were all distributed.
Cody Kendall is the new chairman of the Marion County Election Board. He says he inherited this case and decided to “pull the plug” when a federal judge labeled the treatment of Mulholland “borderline harassment.”
He confirms, however, that Marion County spent somewhere between $300,000 and $500,000 to defend against the Mulholland lawsuit.