A group opposed to the Cincinnati streetcar project asked a judge Wednesday to throw out Ohio‘s system of handling disputes over election advertising. The group’s federal lawsuit claims the system restricts its First Amendment right to criticize the streetcar.
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes filed the suit after streetcar advocates complained to the Ohio Elections Commission about the group’s statements.
The suit is the latest challenge to the state law that allows the elections commission to take action against those it determines have used false or misleading advertising.
Opponents of the law say the system gives the elections commission power to restrict the free speech rights of political campaigns. Others have defended the system as an important way to make sure candidates and causes are not slandered by false claims and ads.
The focus of the lawsuit is on Twitter statements sent by streetcar opponents related to Issue 48, which would bar city spending on any streetcar or rail projects until 2021.
One statement read: “15% of Cincinnati‘s Fire Dept is browned out again today. Don’t trade the safety of your loved ones for a smelly streetcar. VOTE YES on 48.” City officials say no firefighting money is being spent on the streetcars, meaning the tweets are false.
The elections commission is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday to decide whether there is “probable cause” that the Twitter statements are false.