Officials with the Hamilton County Board of Elections have announced the processing will occur today, Thursday and Friday. A total of 286 provisional ballots are being tallied in a Juvenile Court judge race, in compliance with a recent order from a federal judge.
The ballots are being counted today until 4 p.m., as well as from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, and from 10:30 a.m. until the work is completed on Friday. The board’s offices are located on the third floor at 824 Broadway Ave., downtown.
Also, the Board of Elections will hold special meetings this week. Both will occur Friday; one at 10 a.m., the other at 4:30 p.m. Board members will discuss “pending litigation” related to the Hunter-Williams race.
Earlier this month a federal appeals court upheld a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott that 286 provisional ballots should be tallied in the 2010 race between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams.
Hunter seemingly lost by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast by county voters, but 286 ballots weren't counted because they were cast by people who showed up to vote at the correct polling place but were misdirected by poll workers and voted at the wrong precinct table.
Hunter filed a lawsuit in
federal court alleging the ballots should be counted. Dlott had ordered the
local Board of Elections to precisely determine how many ballots weren’t
counted due to poll worker error, before she decided. That’s when local
Republicans appealed the order.
Williams alleged poll workers correctly followed Ohio law and excluded the ballots, and that they shouldn’t be tallied. The GOP tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter, but it declined to hear the case in April 2011. That put the matter back in Dlott’s court.
Since the dispute began, Williams was appointed to another vacant Juvenile Court judgeship in November 2011.
A pending decision about whether to appeal a federal judge’s decision in a disputed election could place Hamilton County taxpayers on the hook for legal fees in the case.
The case involves which provisional ballots to count in the Juvenile Court judicial race between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams from the November 2010 election.
Hunter lost by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast. Some ballots weren’t counted, however, because although they were cast at the correct polling station, they were cast at the wrong precinct table, apparently due to poll worker error. Hunter then filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the board’s decision.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott ruled Feb. 8 that 286 provisional ballots should be counted in the race.
On Monday the Hamilton County Board of Elections split 2-2, along partisan lines, about whether to appeal Dlott’s ruling. Because there was a tie vote, the matter goes to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican who likely will side with his GOP colleagues on the board and order an appeal.
Like the Republicans on the county elections board, Husted has said state law, not a federal judge, should be the final authority on which ballots are counted.
“I am concerned about the continuing involvement of the federal court in prescribing which ballots should and should not be counted in a county judicial race in Ohio,” Husted said in January 2011. “As Ohio’s chief elections officer, I maintain that it is of utmost importance that we take this stand to preserve the authority of state law to govern state elections, as interpreted by the Ohio Supreme Court.”
But the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals already has upheld a ruling by Dlott in the case once before. The appellate court ruled in January 2011 that the board should determine how many ballots were cast due to poll worker error.
The three-judge panel said not counting ballots that were miscast through no fault of the voter would be "fundamentally unfair." Still, it looks like the board will try its luck with the 6th Circuit once again.
It’s routine in cases like this for the victor — plaintiff Tracie Hunter, in this instance — to ask the court to order the defendant to pay legal costs. Although the exact amount of legal fees incurred to date wasn’t immediately available, it’s believed to be in the range of $800,000 to $1.5 million.
If an appeal is pursued, the county could be at risk of paying much more. A lengthy appeal process could easily double what’s been spent so far, legal experts said.
The expense comes at a time when Hamilton County commissioners are cutting back sheriff's patrols and other county services to avoid a deficit.
Husted’s office hasn’t yet received formal notice of the board’s tie vote, a staffer said today. When it does, a legal review will be initiated.
“We will make a decision shortly thereafter,” said spokesman Matt McClellan. “We hope to make one soon.”
Interestingly, Dlott also commented in her ruling on the apparent unconstitutionality of Ohio law.
“Ohio’s precinct-based voting system that delegates to poll workers the duty to ensure that voters are directed to the correct precinct but which provides that provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct shall not be counted under any circumstance, even where the ballot is miscast due to poll-worker error, is fundamentally unfair and abrogates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process of law,” the judge wrote.
Dlott said she was unable to order a remedy, however, because the original complaint wasn’t based on a due process claim and the plaintiff had failed to notify the Ohio Attorney General, as she were required to do if she intended to challenge the constitutionality of Ohio law.
Since then, though, the notice has been given. Conceivably, Dlott could rule on that issue in the not-too-distant future and order a remedy, namely declaring Ohio’s election laws unconstitutional and unenforceable.
His father might be busy trying to score the GOP’s presidential nomination, but U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is taking the time to speak at a Town Hall-style meeting in Northern Kentucky next week.
Paul is scheduled to attend an event organized by the Northern Kentucky Tea Party on Feb. 24. It will be held at the Calvin Perry Community Center, 8536 W. Main St., in Alexandria.
The meeting, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 2 p.m. and last for about an hour. Paul will speak first, then answer questions from the audience.
In the Tea Party’s announcement of the event, Paul is described as “a true champion of freedom” who has “worked to stop the EPA's war on coal.”
Paul, 49, is the son of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) who is seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Elected to the Senate in November 2010, the younger Paul is also a practicing ophthalmologist in Bowling Green, Ky.
Paul made headlines during his campaign when he said he disliked portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce.
A restaurant or other private business with no government funding should be allowed to discriminate, he said. “In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior,” Paul added.
Nearly 15 months after the disputed election, a federal judge ruled today that Hamilton County elections officials must count roughly 300 provisional ballots cast in a 2010 Juvenile Court judge race.
U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott said that the Board of Elections violated the voters’ constitutional rights when it decided to count some provisional ballots but discard others based solely on the location of where they were cast.
A state lawmaker from Cincinnati is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to send federal election monitors here to ensure all provisional ballots cast in the November election are counted.
State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Bond Hill) sent the letter this week. She stated that concerns about how provisional ballots were treated in the 2010 race for Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge prompted the letter, adding no significant progress has been made in dealing with the issue since that time.
If three unscientific, online polls are any indication, Ohio Gov. John Kasich probably shouldn't make plans for a second term.
The Columbus Dispatch, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Dayton's WRGT-TV (Channel 45) have each had polls asking people to rate Kasich's performance during his first 100 days in office and the results are overwhelming and the same: Most disapprove of his performance or give him an “F.”
Just a few weeks after leaving office, ex-Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is trying to raise awareness about a political action committee (PAC) she helped create while campaigning last year for the U.S. Senate nomination.
Courage PAC is designed to increase grassroots advocacy and citizen activism on several issues, and perform a watchdog role on Ohio government now that Republicans fill most statewide offices.