CINCINNATI — A blue slate card designed to look like an official card made by the Hamilton County Democratic Party outlining endorsed city council candidates began circulating at polling locations across Cincinnati, the party said.
An emailed press release said the fake card, created on blue paper, also impersonated the HCDP logo. It featured both non-endorsed and endorsed candidates.
The party claimed city council candidate Brian Garry, who is not endorsed by the HCDP, approached poll workers and volunteers and offered them money to distribute the fake slate instead of the authentic slate created by the official party.
Garry disputed this and said he never handed any of the slates out himself, nor did he pay anyone to do it.
Garry responded on Twitter and said the fake slates did originate with his campaign, but that they were released by the campaign's marketing director "unapproved and against the wishes of our campaign."
He said the campaign has since stopped handing the slate out and apologized.
"We did not mean to contribute to any voter misinformation," Garry tweeted.
During a press conference, Garry said his intent was to highlight all Democrats running in the election, not just those endorsed by the HCDP.
"The slate card that was put out is good Democrats. There are good Democrats on that slate card," he said. "And everything on that slate card is legitimate and protected First Amendment speech."
He said there was nothing wrong or misleading about the card, because it did not state the candidates on it were endorsed or that the card was from the Hamilton County Democratic Party.
"It does look similar," he said. "The words 'Democratic Party' are not there. The word 'endorsed' is not there."
The HCDP accused Garry of participating in attempts to misinform voters by distributing the fake cards and said they will be "taking the necessary actions to hold the people responsible accountable, both legally and from within our organization after the polls close at 7:30 p.m."
Gwen McFarlin, chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, said she's never seen anything like this before.
"I have never seen anything like this before in my life and I am horrified and it is horrific and I am ashamed," said McFarlin.
McFarlin also said she finds it hard to believe other unendorsed candidates featured on Garry's fake slate were entirely ignorant to its creation.
Garry said he doesn't know who was aware of the slate, just that he never saw a final copy before they were printed out.