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Published: Sunday, 11/7/2010

Twisting voters' arms

Efforts to coerce or intimidate potential voters are never acceptable. Yet during the just-concluded campaign, that evidently happened to hundreds of employees of several McDonald's restaurants in Stark County, as well as a group of Cincinnati high school students.

The owner of the McDonald's franchise, Paul Siegfried, bundled employees' pre-election paychecks with Republican campaign materials. In case anyone missed the point, a letter enclosed with the checks urged workers to support three GOP candidates.

He suggested he would be able to continue raising wages and offering competitive benefits only "if the right people" were elected. "If others are elected," he warned, "we will not."

Ohio election law prohibits employers from attempting to subject workers to intimidation or threat by stating that job benefits will be affected by the election or defeat of political candidates. McDonald's says it maintains a corporate policy of political neutrality.

Mr. Siegfried subsequently apologized for "an error of judgment on my part." But Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has properly ordered an investigation of the apparent voter scare tactics. If her office determines that he violated state law, penalties would be appropriate.

In the Cincinnati case, high school students who are of or approaching voting age reportedly were taken by school officials on a field trip to a polling place before the election. They were shown how to vote - and given Democratic Party sample ballots.

The move has sparked a lawsuit against Cincinnati Public Schools for alleged improper engagement in partisan politics. A district review concluded "there was no intent to sway votes" on the field trip.

But this matter too deserves further investigation. These students' first exposure to the civic responsibility of voting shouldn't include the wrong lesson.

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