Monday, February 13, 2012

Victory In Hamilton County Voting Case

NEOCH Voting Settlement Preserved by Court

Way back in 2006, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless sued the State of Ohio over identification issues and voting.  We reached settlements for the 2006 and 2008 elections on the procedure for accepting identification on election day and how to count the provisional ballots. The Hamilton County Board of Elections in supervising the 2010 election decided to ignore the Secretary of State directive on counting of provisional ballots that were based on our settlement.  There was an extremely close race between Tracie Hunter and John Williams for juvenile court judge.  The final total provided by the Board was Williams winning by 23 votes.  This last week, a federal court judge in Cincinnati ruled that the hundreds of votes tossed out should be counted.

The Board of Elections excluded ballots that were cast with some error associated with the provisional ballot.  Many of these errors were the result of the poll worker misdirecting the voter in the proper procedure for completing the ballot.  It would seem obvious if the employee of the Board of Elections misdirects the voter, that voter should not be disenfranchised and have their vote thrown out.  The federal court judge has decided that these voters cast legitimate votes that must be counted if the poll worker erred. After two years of the seat being vacant and the people of Greater Cincinnati waiting for a decision in the case, the federal court has upheld our settlement.  The Cincinnati Inquirer story says that most of the disputed ballots are in heavily Democratic areas of town.  The local media is predicting that the election will swing the other way and Hunter will prevail.  Judging from the visceral response from the Hamilton County officials who answered the lawsuit and represent the other political party, they seem to agree. 

This is a victory for the Coalition and a victory for providing as many citizens as possible the chance to participate in democracy.  These same rules will be in place for the upcoming presidential election unless the state legislature makes changes this spring.  The difference is that these settlement and the directives will now have the success of being verified by the federal courts.  The Hamilton County Board of Elections has not decided if they are going to appeal this ruling. 

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