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Vote to move Board of Elections to Mt. Airy ends in tie
CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- The possible move of the Hamilton County Board of Elections from downtown to Mt. Airy remains up in the air right now. On a 2-2 tie along party lines, the board voted not to move, Republicans saying yes, Democrats no.
More than two dozen people spoke, the majority favoring keeping the board or at least the early voting component, downtown where it's much easier to get to than the Mt. Airy location. "In November 2012 approximately 24,000 people voted at the board of elections downtown. We believe it makes o sense to require the voters to go to a less accessible location," says Nancy Dowling, League of Women Voters.
The Mt. Airy site is in play because the old Mercy Franciscan Hospital been offered to Hamilton County for free, as a much-needed home for the coroner's crime lab. But without another agency, like the Board of Elections, taking over the hospital may not be cost-effective.
The board of elections vote was along party lines, Republicans saying the Mt. Airy site is better for all concerned, because Hamilton County actually has the lowest percentage of early, in-person voters in the state: "The current location is not working. Our proposal is to put this in a more central location, with free parking. Our position is this will have the opposite effect of what the allegations have been," said Alex Triantifilou.
The two democrats, including Tim Burke, said moving the board out of downtown would move it away from predominantly African-American, predominantly democratic voters. "When you start to move early voting, you have to see if you are disenfranchising clearly voters who come to the board by mass transit, or by that matter the 50,000-plus people who live and work downtown and can walk to the board and do that today. Nobody is going to walk to the Mt Airy site."
These are the new voting booths at the Board of Elections downtown, but it's uncertain where they will be in the future. The 2-2 tie goes to Secretary of State John Husted to break the tie. Husted is a Republican and you would expect he would go with the GOP and vote to move the board of elections to Mt. Airy. But it's unclear if Husted actually has the legal authority to do that, so right now it's all in limbo.
Last week, city council members voted unanimously against the proposed move to the Mercy Mt. Airy site.
Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld spoke before Monday's Board of election vote. "This basically boils down to the fact that in our democratic system and our democratic process, there are two kinds of actions when it comes to the ballot box. People can take actions to increase accessibility to voting or people can take actions to create obstacles when it comes to voting. The proposal to move early voting to Mt. Airy falls in the latter category. This would create obstacles for thousands and thousands of people."
Meantime, Hamilton County Commissioners had a closed door meeting scheduled at noon on Monday. They delayed the decision to accept the Mt. Airy facility until Wednesday. But another thing which is vague, it's unclear if the commissioners can force the Board of Elections to move if the board does not want to.