Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hamilton County juvenile court ballot dispute

In what's coming to be believed to be the longest-running election in Hamilton County history, the end, perhaps, got just a bit closer with the U.S. 6th. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday clearing the way to have some 300 disputed ballots in the razor-close election for Hamilton County juvenile court judge counted. ( Order )

Cincinnati.com writes, that "The decision does not end the long court battle over the ballots, but it does require 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."

Summarizing the proceedings over the past 17 months, the 6th. Circuit's order recounted Tracie Hunter's having brought the action challenging the way in which the Hamilton County Board of Elections ("Board") reviewed and counted provisional ballots cast in the 2010 election for judge of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

In November 2010, the Southern Ohio district court issued a preliminary injunction directing the Board of Elections to undertake an investigation into Hunter's allegations. Hunter filed an emergency motion with the Sixth Circuit to enforce the injunction which was granted on January 12, 2011. The Board of Elections appealed , with the 6th. Circuit now affirming the district court's injunction, affirming in part and vacating in part the January order, and remanding the issue back to the district court for further proceedings to determine how the Board should proceed.

On remand, the district court conducted a lengthy evidentiary hearing, subsequently issuing a judgment and order determining that the Board had violated provisional voters’ right to equal protection when it considered evidence of the location where provisional ballots were cast for some, but not all, provisional ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct, and enjoining the Board from rejecting otherwise valid provisional ballots that were cast in the correct location, but in the wrong precinct, as a result of poll-worker error.

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