Hamilton County Juvenile Judge dispute still unresolved

Ohio Secretary of State asking for ruling

CINCINNATI - There was still no decision Friday on who will become HamiltonCounty’s newest Juvenile Court Judge.

Hamilton County Board of Elections member continued their legalwrangling on the issue of if, how and when provisional ballotsshould be counted.

Tempers often flared during the a 90 minute board meeting asdozens of people crowded the room seeking a resolution to thedispute, two months after the General Election.

The underlying issue is voters who went to the right pollingplace, but voted or were directed to vote in the wrong precinct. Inother words, right church, but the wrong pew. Over 280,000 peoplevoted on Nov. 2. That included 11,000 people who cast provisionalballots, 800 of which have been questioned.

Once a decision is reached, it could impact the way future Ohioelections are held.

As it currently stands, Republican John Williams leads DemocratTracie Hunter by 23 votes. However, the provisional vote questionhas led to orders from U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott oncounting hundreds of ballots, rulings from former Ohio Secretary ofState Jennifer Brunner and opinions from the Ohio SupremeCourt.

Williams has benefited from the Ohio rulings, whileHunter’s positions have been backed by the federal courtdecisions.

On Friday, the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Officesuggested that board members had three options – be incontempt of the U.S. District Court, be in contempt of the OhioSupreme Court or appeal Judge Dlott’s ruling to the U.S. 6thCircuit Court of Appeals. The appeal was recommended.

The Board split its vote two-to-two on the appeal question.

Republicans Alex Triantafilou and Chip Gerhardt voted yes, whileDemocrats Tim Burke and Caleb Faux said no.

“It strikes me that states do have an obligation to followa federal court order,” said Faux. “If that were nottrue, the schools of Little Rock would still besegregated.”

“What’s left out of the conversation is that theOhio Supreme Court, the highest court of this state, told us thatthe process that we undertook to investigate poll worker errorviolated state law.”

Once the vote was taken, the floor was opened to questions fromthe crowd.

Some spoke of constitutional issues.

“Is the State of Ohio or the Secretary of State going todo something that is going to violate the United StatesConstitution,” asked one man.

“The Constitution was not to grant the federal governmentauthority over the state governments,” said another.“This is an issue of state sovereignty.”

Madisonville resident Marjorie Moseley simply stated that theboard needs to make a decision soon.

“Mistakes were made. We know it,” she said.“Make a decision about the voters, about the citizens of thiscountry, and represent all of us instead of representing yourparticular side, or your particular issue.”

Moseley continued, “Count the votes. Let it happen. Letsomebody charge you with contempt of court. Stand up! Stand up!Stand up!"

Board of Elections member Chip Gerhardt said the resolution tothe dispute might benefit future elections.

“As painful as this is, clarity may come from this,”he said. “That’s what the hope is.”

As the meeting wound down, tempers flared in a back corner ofthe room, away from the board members. Several people stoodtoe-to-toe and pointed fingers at one another, while loudly arguingtheir positions.

Gerhardt asked them to be quiet. Others in the room steppedbetween them. However, the arguing continued and the meeting wasadjourned.

Afterward, Hunter said she believes Judge Dlott has followed theConstitution and that an appeal is not necessary.

“I believe it was constitutionally sound,” she saidof the federal ruling
Williams said he thinks it’s proper that a higher courtdetermines the outcome.

“The structure of elections in Ohio is fundamentally atstake,” said Williams, who is a former Director of theHamilton County Board of Elections.

Both candidates admitted being frustrated that the matter hasdragged on for more than two months.

“We certainly never intended to be in something likethis,” said Williams. “It’s kind of above our paygrade now.”

Hunter said people before her have waited a long time for theirrights, so she’s willing to be patient.

“I do hope that in the election upcoming that HamiltonCounty will not have to suffer through the type of conflicts thatwe have undergone in this last election,” she said


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