MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mac Warner on behalf of an advocacy group who opposes Amendment One on Tuesday’s ballot, claiming Warner improperly enforced the state’s electioneering laws.
Amendment One deals with right to life and right to choice. Voting ‘yes’ on the ballot measure would enshrine in the West Virginia constitution that nothing protects a right to an abortion or requires the funding of abortion.
The lawsuit states that Warner “violated the constitutional free speech rights of Plaintiffs Vote No On Amendment One, Inc., Katherine Lewis, and Stacy North when he enforced an unconstitutional statute that ultimately prohibted Plaintiffs from providing education about Amendment No. 1 to voters anywhere on the property of a polling place during early voting.”
Lewis and North were holding signs for Vote No On Amendment One, Inc., at the Morgantown Mall Saturday afternoon approximately 100 feet from the early voting center. They were asked to move once due to proximity, which they agreed too.
At one point, Warner himself asked the women to move off the property, citing a statute in West Virginia code that said no electioneering could occur on early voting property.
A law last amended in 2011, according to the lawsuit, prompted Warner to tell Lewis and North that they could not be on the property of the designated early voting location in Monongalia County.
However, the lawsuit argues that a 2015 decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that a “300-foot no political speech buffer zone around polling locations was not sufficiently tailored to any compelling public interest and thus violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”
State code, last amended in 2017, said advocacy can occur 100 feet from designated locations, according to the ACLU.
The ACLU further argues that the West Virginia statute is unconstitutionally overbroad and that Mac Warner “abused the authority of his office.”
Warner’s office released the following statement:
“The Secretary of State’s Office must enforce the law as it is written by the Legislature, and this provision in the law has been in the books for years,” Warner said. “Regardless the plaintiffs’ contentions, my Office cannot pick and choose which provisions of law to enforce.”