Poll workers: We didn't know to stay open late

Posted at 8:11 PM, Mar 15, 2016

CINCINNATI -- A federal judge extended voting by one hour in parts of Ohio, but many polling workers said they weren't notified in time.

The Ohio Secretary of State's Office informed the media via email that polls in Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont counties were ordered to stay open until 8:30 due to "traffic issues in the region." The emailed news release was distributed at 8 p.m.

Election officials from Butler, Warren and Hamilton counties said they were unaware of the extension at 8:10 p.m. when WCPO contacted them for comment. At 8:15 p.m., many poll workers said they'd packed up all polling equipment and closed their doors.



Watch the video in the player above to hear from polling location manager Chris Heckman. He said he turned voters away at 8:20 p.m. and had no idea that hours were extended.

Judge Susan Dlott of the Southern District of Ohio made the ruling without a lawsuit or hearing after hearing a traffic complaint, according to Secretary of State John Husted.

"We literally got a call from a guy named Steve in Judge Dlott's office saying the polls should be open longer," he said.

Husted said there is no written order from Dlott to keep the polls open late.

Husted's office reached Dlott by phone, he said, and Dlott explained that she was informed of a traffic issue by someone in her office. Husted said Dlott ordered the polls be open late in the four counties.

A crash on eastbound Interstate 275 near Interstate 471 was closed for more than an hour after a car went into the Ohio River. Traffic was backed up on both interstates, as well as on US 50 due to the crash.

Dlott said she was in touch with Husted's office at 7 p.m. asking the polls be open longer to accommodate any voters stuck in traffic. The judge said the Secretary of State's Office agreed with the decision, but that it would be up to Husted's office to "work out the logistics."

Dlott declined an interview regarding her decision.

"I'm not sure what basis I have to not follow it," Husted said.

All votes cast after 7:30 will be considered provisional, Husted said.