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Federal court rules SC political robo-call law unconstitutional

06/23/2014 6:03 PM

03/14/2015 9:01 AM

A U.S. District Court in Greenville ruled this month that a state law that bans political robo-calls is unconstitutional.

The order, signed by U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs on June 10, is part of a broader, ongoing lawsuit Robert Cahaly, a former campaign consultant to ex-Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, filed after he was arrested in 2010 for political robocalls traced back to him, Cahaly said.

Cahaly's charges were dismissed. He later filed a lawsuit against the state claiming that his first-amendment rights were violated.

Cahaly was accused of targeting six female Democratic state House candidates in the call, according to the court order. One call asked listeners if the Democratic state House candidate should invite Democrat Nancy Pelosi to campaign with her. The listener was prompted to answer yes or no by using the telephone key pad.

State law bans the use of an automated-dialing method for automated calls that are political or commercial in nature. But the court order says that the state attorney general previously had interpreted the law to allow political robo-calls as long as they are delivered to an answering machine or conduct a survey.

The court also ruled that state law unfairly singles out political and commercial speech, and agreed with Cahaly that the law violated his First Amendment right to speak and not speak. The ruling only applies to political robo-calls, not to commercial robo-calls, which also are restricted by state law.

"This ruling in favor of free speech isn’t just a win for me," Cahaly said. "It’s a win for the Constitution and most especially the Bill of Rights....I didn’t break the law.” he continued. "I expect additional favorable rulings in the months and years to come."

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A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to Follow The Buzz @buzzatthestate. Follow Cassie @cassielcope. Follow Jamie @jamiemself. Follow Andy @andyshain.

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