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Plan to Move Elections Board Fails
HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio (Jeff Hirsh) -- The proposal to move the Hamilton County Board of Elections from Downtown Cincinnati to Mt. Airy remains in limbo after a couple of tie votes along party lines stalled the idea.
However, the Secretary of State could possibly break the tie. Both sides agree the board needs more space, but there is strong disagreement over leaving a spot that's easy to walk to or get to by bus to a location which is not mass-transit friendly or within walking distance for most folks.
It was a spirited debate. More than two dozen people speaking, most against moving the board to Mount Airy but some were in favor.
"I think first and foremost your responsibility is to every taxpayer in Hamilton County. It is not the city of Cincinnati Board of Elections. It is the Hamilton County Board of Elections. You need to make a fiscally responsible decision."
"I believe the primary duty of the Board of Elections is not to save the county money but to provide the opportunity for all citizens to participate in free elections which are the foundation of our government."
The Mount Airy site is in play because the old Mercy Hospital has been offered to the county for free. They offered it as a much needed home for the County Coroner's lab. But without another agency like the Board of Elections to use some of the space, taking over the hospital may not be cost effective.
The Board of Elections vote was on party lines. Republicans voted to move the board to Mount Airy, Democrats voted no. Another vote to move some board functions but keep a downtown voting office also lost again, 2-2.
"We are in a highly inaccessible location. Poor parking, we have people waiting in stairwells and lined up on city streets. And let me point out we're talking of four percent of the votes. 96 percent of the voters in the county choose one of the many easy myriad ways of casting a ballot."
"I'm hesitant to talk about voter disenfranchisement but that's what this feels like to a lot of people."
That's because the majority of downtown early voters are African American and tend to vote Democratic. A 2-2 Board of Elections tie is normally broken by Secretary of State, John Husted (R). Although it is uncertain if in this situation he has the legal authority to do so.
Hamilton County Commissioners have final say on whether to accept the hospital property. Commission President, Chris Monzel, tells Local 12 News they will decide Wednesday after learning whatever Secretary of State Husted does about the tie votes at the Board of Elections.