Judge: Voting case against blogger, Board of Elections can move forward

Ballot cast in mayoral primary is disputed

CINCINNATI -- An appellate court has rejected requests to dismiss a complaint against the Hamilton County Board of Elections for allegedly misapplying Ohio election law.

A three-judge panel in the First District Court of Appeals rejected the requests Friday, and set a hearing date for July.

The motions to dismiss were filed by the Board of Elections and local blogger Randy Simes.

Attorney Curt Hartman is appealing an October decision by the board that determined Simes was eligible to cast a vote in Cincinnati’s mayoral primary.

Simes cast an early voting ballot this summer for the Sept. 10 mayoral primary, although he had been living in Chicago for more than a year.

Under Ohio law, a person’s primary residence must be in the jurisdiction where a ballot is cast for at least 30 days before the election.

Members of the Voter Integrity Project had alleged multiple social media postings by Simes before and after he cast the ballot indicated he still lived in Chicago at the time.

A Cincinnati native, Simes is on a two-year assignment for his employer in South Korea and plans on returning to the Queen City when the work is done. He is using an Over-the-Rhine mailing address for U.S. residency purposes.

Simes is operator of the UrbanCincy blog and a planner with the Parsons Brinckerhoff consulting firm.

Simes noted he registered to vote in Cincinnati on July 12, and unregistered in Illinois at the same time. He cast the early ballot here on Aug. 28, more than 30 days later.

After a lengthy hearing in October, the Hamilton County Board of Elections voted 3-1 to dismiss a complaint against Simes.

Tim Burke and Caleb Faux, the Democratic members of the board, were joined by Republican Chip Gerhardt in voting to dismiss the complaint.

Alex Triantafilou, the board’s other Republican, cast the dissenting vote.

Hartman appealed the decision, alleging the board ignored election law because two members – Burke and Faux -- are personal acquaintances of Simes. The board’s action showed an “abuse of discretion and/or corruption,” Hartman said.

The judges established a scheduling order in the case, setting deadlines for filing evidence and briefs.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for July 7.

Simes, an avid supporter of Cincinnati's streetcar project, backed Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race. Qualls eventually lost to John Cranley.

RELATED: Board of Elections decides blogger eligible to cast ballot

For more stories by Kevin Osborne, visit www.wcpo.com/osborne . Follow him on Twitter at @kevinwcpo

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