The winner of the 2010 election for Hamilton County juvenile court judge should be known within a month, when almost 300 disputed ballots are counted. Members of the county’s Board of Elections agreed Tuesday to begin counting the ballots in the next week or so to comply with a federal court order. The election, believed to be the longest in Hamilton County history, was supposed to end 17 months ago but has dragged on because of a court battle over whether to count the disputed ballots. The dispute involves provisional ballots cast in the race between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams, who leads Hunter by 23 votes. Williams’ lead could be in jeopardy if the nearly 300 provisional ballots are counted because most of those ballots were cast in predominantly Democratic precincts.
Hunter challenged the outcome when the Board of Elections rejected the provisional ballots, concluding they were miscast under Ohio law. She argued that voters cast the ballots at the correct polling places but at the wrong precinct tables because of poll-worker error. The two Republicans on the board voted to toss the ballots and the two Democrats voted to count them, but Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted broke the tie by siding with his fellow Republicans.
U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott ruled the ballots should be counted because the board had agreed to count some provisional ballots cast at the board’s downtown office. She said counting those ballots while rejecting the others violated federal election law. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected a Republican appeal that sought to block counting the ballots until the court case is resolved. The appeals court decision does not end the case, but it required the board to count the ballots, declare a winner and seat the winning judge.