Cincinnati Streetcar Foes Attempt to Revoke Urbanist Blogger’s Right to Vote

The voting rights of a single Cincinnati resident took center stage this week in the never-ending drama over the city’s under-construction streetcar.

Cincinnati blogger Randy Simes was forced to defend his right to vote this week in the face of conspiracy allegations by a Tea Party-affiliated anti-streetcar group. Image: Business Journals

Members of the Tea Party-affiliated Ohio Voter Integrity Project filed a complaint with the local Board of Elections challenging the right of city resident Randy Simes to vote in Cincinnati while he is in South Korea on business. Simes is the owner of Urban Cincy, a pro-streetcar blog and member of the Streetsblog Network.

On Monday, good sense prevailed, and the Board of Elections made a 3-1 determination that yes, Simes does have the right to vote absentee in Cincinnati. Simes called the whole ordeal “a big fishing expedition” that was “politically motivated.”

Simes told Streetsblog that he was living in Chicago before he relocated to Korea, but he wanted to reestablish his residency in Cincinnati, his hometown, before beginning the two-year position. He plans to return to the city when he completes the assignment and live with a friend, whose address is where he is registered.

“This is legal for expats to do,” Simes told Streetsblog. “You just need to show some tangible connection to the place where you’re registering and an intent to return there upon completion of your assignment, both of which I have.”

Following the ruling, Simes told WCPO Cincinnati: “The facts spoke for themselves and the Hamilton County Board of Elections acknowledged that in their bipartisan ruling.”

Complainant Mary Seigel of the Ohio Voter Integrity Project was represented in the hearing by the lawyer who also represents the anti-streetcar group COAST. She claimed Simes should have been registered in Chicago, citing social media remarks made by Simes in the preceding months.

Members of COAST alleged on the group’s blog that Simes’ right to vote in Cincinnati is part of a conspiracy to benefit the financial interests of his employer, Parsons Brinkerhoff, a contractor on the streetcar project. It should be noted that Parsons Brinkerhoff employs some 30,000 worldwide and Simes has never worked on the Cincinnati Streetcar project. Also, the contract for the streetcar has already been awarded and can’t be affected by the results of this election cycle. But COAST’s theory seems to be that by voting for Democratic mayoral candidate and streetcar proponent Roxanne Qualls in the primary, Simes helped rig an electoral outcome that favors his employer. (Simes is a Qualls supporter, but other than casting his single vote, his only connection to the candidate is that he made a $50 donation to her campaign.)

“This Qualls supporter [Simes] was willing to risk a felony conviction and prison term to cast his vote for her and for his employer trying to buy yet another election,” COAST’s blog said.

If all of this sounds crazy, keep in mind that this week the city began laying streetcar tracks. At this point, halting construction of the project would actually cost the city more than completing it, but that hasn’t stopped Qualls’ chief rival, fellow Democrat John Cranley, from campaigning on that idea.