The election that is believed to be the longest in Hamilton County history isn’t over yet. But it’s getting close. A federal appeals court ruling Monday cleared the way to count some 300 disputed ballots in the razor-close election for Hamilton County juvenile court judge, which took place 17 months ago. The decision does not end the long court battle over the ballots, but it requires county election officials to count the ballots, declare a victor and seat the winning judge while the legal fight continues for months, or even years, in the federal courts. The Board of Elections will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss how the ballots will be counted and how long it might take. “I think we are all ready to try to get this thing moved to a resolution,” said Tim Burke, the county’s Democratic Party chairman and a member of the Board of Elections.
The dispute involves provisional ballots cast in the 2010 juvenile court election between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams. Williams leads by 23 votes, but Hunter could surge ahead when the disputed ballots are counted because they were cast in predominantly Democratic precincts. Voters cast the provisional ballots at the correct polling places but at the wrong precinct table, an error known as “right church, wrong pew.”
Hunter and the Democrats have argued it is unfair to exclude the ballots because evidence suggests poll-workers mistakenly directed voters to the wrong tables. Williams and the Republicans say the ballots were miscast and Ohio law does not allow them to be counted.