Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hamilton County, Ohio's juvenile court election dispute

Last week, Southern Ohio U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott in a 93-page decision ruled that hundreds of contested votes that could decide the 2010 Hamilton County Juvenile Court race should be counted.

A legal victory for Democratic candidate Tracie Hunter that could translate into a political victory in a judicial contest that has remained undecided for 15 months,
Cincinnati.com last Wednesday also noted that “the ruling also opens the door to a broader challenge to Ohio’s voting system, one that potentially could result in a part of the state’s current electoral procedures being declared unconstitutional.”

“The major question about the uncounted votes,” that article wrote, “is whether the mistakes that kept the provisional ballots from being tabulated were made by voters or poll workers. In some cases, voters showed up at the correct polling location but mistakenly cast ballots at the wrong precinct table – an error commonly referred to as ‘right church, wrong pew.’” Judge Diott didn’t see it that simply, saying it created a double standard. “Under current practices,” she wrote, “votes cast in the wrong precinct are not to be ‘counted under any circumstance, even when the ballot is miscast due to poll worker error…That policy is fundamentally unfair and violates the 14th Amendment’s due process guarantee.”

Yesterday morning -- along partisan lines --
Cincinnati.com’s Politics Extra, reported that the Hamilton County Board of Elections came to a split decision on whether to appeal Judge Diott’s order to the Sixth Circuit or comply with it and count the 283 provisional ballots in question… with the decision now being made by Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Cincinnati.com indicated that the Southern District case last Wednesday didn’t challenge the constitutionality of Ohio’s election statutes, but that an amended complaint could do so. (Also see Notice here)

The case has been before both the
Ohio Supreme Court and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in recent months.

In an interesting aside,
MSNBC.com this morning has a story about a recent Pew Center study that found “some 24 million voter registrations in the United States contain significant errors, including about 1.8 million dead people still on the rolls and many more approved to vote in multiple states.

“Even though the inaccuracies impact one in eight registrations,” the article said, “researchers at the Pew Center on the States said they don't see it as an indicator of widespread fraud. Rather, they believe outdated systems are failing to keep pace with the most basic changes in people's lives, feeding perceptions that U.S. elections are not as airtight as they could be. Eight states -- Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington -- were reported as saying they were working on a centralized data system in conjunction with the Pew report to help identify people whose registrations may be outdated.”

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