Fights over new tough voting restrictions, imposed mostly by Republican legislatures and elections officials, are finally getting the national attention they deserve: Thank you, Sarah Silverman, for your video, expletives and all, about new and controversial voter identification laws. But an appeal being argued today by telephone, SEIU v. Husted, has remained obscure—even though if the election goes into overtime in Ohio, it could be key to the resolution of the presidential election. At issue are potentially thousands of Ohio ballots that the state will not count solely because of poll worker error. Here’s the problem: A number of the state’s polling places, especially in cities, cover more than one voting precinct, and in order to cast a valid vote, a voter has to be given the correct precinct ballot. Poll workers, however, often hand voters the wrong precinct ballot mistakenly. In earlier litigation involving a disputed 2010 juvenile judge race in Hamilton County, Ohio, a poll worker testified to sending a voter whose address started with the numbers “798” to vote in the precinct for voters with odd-numbered addresses because the poll worker believed “798” was an odd number. This “right church, wrong pew” problem with precinct ballots was a big problem in 2008, when over 14,000 such ballots were cast.
Each election year, Ohio residents cast thousands of ballots that are not counted. Despite efforts to simplify the state’s voting to avoid widespread discarding of ballots, it could happen again in November’s presidential race. The Enquirer, during a weeks-long examination of the state’s electoral procedures, found that voting – America’s most precious right and the foundation for all others – is a fragile civic exercise for many Ohioans. A confusing maze of state laws, administrative directives and court rulings on voting procedures, errors – by voters and poll workers alike – and other factors cause large numbers of ballots to end up in the electoral trash can every year, particularly in urban counties.
A federal judge this week will consider naming a “special master” to get to the bottom of Tennessee Democrats’ assertions that voter data files received from state election officials contained partially or even totally blank voting histories for an estimated 11,000 voters. Attorney George Barrett, who is representing Democrats in a federal lawsuit against Republican Secretary of State Tré Hargett and state Elections Coordinator Mark Goins, said U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp heard the case Friday in Cookeville, Tenn. The judge asked both sides to agree on how to deal with issues raised in court testimony, Barrett said. Barrett, who is representing the Tennessee Democratic Party and former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., said both sides agreed Friday night on a consent order, which they intend to submit to Sharp this week.
Tracie Hunter is a week or so away from becoming Hamilton County’s newest juvenile court judge after a recount Thursday confirmed she won the 2010 election. The final count put Hunter, a Democrat, 74 votes ahead of Republican John Williams in an election that is believed to be the longest in county history. Hunter trailed Williams by 23 votes after the election on Nov. 2, 2010, but a court order to count about 300 contested provisional ballots gave her the victory. “It has been a long struggle,” said Hunter’s lawyer, Jennifer Branch. “But it was worth the effort because we Americans believe every vote should count.”
One year, five months and 25 days after voters cast their ballots, Hamilton County declared a winner Friday in the 2010 election for juvenile court judge. Democrat Tracie Hunter beat Republican John Williams by 71 votes in what is believed to be the longest election in county history. Hunter trailed Williams by 23 votes after the election on Nov. 2, 2010, but a court order to count about 300 contested provisional ballots put her over the top. The long, politically-charged fight over the ballots became an early skirmish between Democrats and Republicans in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, as both sides angled to shape voting rules and policies.
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.
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.