A lawyer for Donald Trump’s campaign wrote in a brief filed Wednesday that the Republican candidate’s statements encouraging supporters to watch the polls for Democratic voter fraud are protected speech and that preventing supporters from espousing those same views near polling places on Election Day would trample on their free-speech rights. Chad Readler, an attorney for the Jones Day law firm, wrote that a lawsuit filed in federal court in Cleveland Sunday by the Ohio Democratic Party is based on “miscellaneous long-ago statements, vague innuendo, rank speculation, and a heavy dose of rhetoric.” The suit says Republicans are engaging in voter intimidation. He wrote that Trump and other candidates “are perfectly within their rights to encourage their supporters to serve as poll watchers” and that an order preventing supporters from harassing or intimidating voters outside of polling places would violate the First Amendment.
If U.S. District Judge James Gwin were to grant the restraining order requested by Democrats, Trump supporters would be forbidden from protesting against a candidate several hundred feet away from a polling place, from “suggesting” that someone illegally voting may be subject to prosecution “or from simply asking fellow citizens for whom they voted,” the brief says.
The brief also says that the order as requested “threatens to limit the Campaign’s right to reach voters outside the polling place as well as the ability to collect voting data inside the polling place for traditional get-out-the-vote activities, as authorized under Ohio law.”