The Hamilton County Board of Elections will move to a new site in Mt. Airy after the 2016 election, thanks to a tie-breaking vote cast Friday by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
On January 27, the Hamilton County Board of Elections split along party lines on whether to move to the former Mercy Mt. Airy Hospital site, recently acquired for free from Catholic Health Partners.
The two Democrats on the board, Tim Burke and Caleb Faux, argued that moving from the present board offices at 824 Broadway downtown would make it more difficult for voters without cars to get to the board offices to cast early in-person ballots.
Most of them, the Democrats said, take buses downtown. All bus lines go downtown, but only one – Route 17 – goes directly to the Mt. Airy site.
Cincinnati City Council, the NAACP and other groups opposed the move to Mt. Airy. Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, offered the board space owned by the city in the old Shillito’s building downtown as its new home.
The two Republicans on the board – Alex Triantafilou and Chip Gerhardt – argued that there are plenty of opportunities for Hamilton County voters to cast ballots early, either by absentee ballot or in person, during the 35-day early voting period. The Mt. Airy site, they said, has hundreds of free parking spaces.
Under Ohio law, tie votes by boards of elections go to the secretary of state to cast the tie-breaking vote.
In a three-page letter to the board, Husted, a Republican, told the board members they have three years to come to an agreement on early, in-person voting.
“I direct the members of the Hamilton County Board of Elections (either current or future) to work together to either find bipartisan agreement on improving early voting services at the Mt. Airy site or jointly working out an alternative early voting location that works for all of Hamilton County,’’ Husted said.
Three years, Husted said, “should be plenty of time” for the two sides to work out their differences.
Triantafilou, who is chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, cheered Husted’s action in a Facebook post this afternoon.
“Voting will be easier for all of Hamilton County, thanks to Secretary Husted,’’ Triantafilou wrote.
Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke, who is also chairman of the Board of elections said, said he doubts the Republicans will agree to an alternative early voting site.
“I am not bloody optimistic that the Republicans will agree to any place but Mt. Airy,’’ Burke said. “But we are always willing to talk with them.”
The former hospital site will also be the site of the county coroner’s new crime lab; and other county offices – including elements of the sheriff’s department – are expected to move into the 500,000 square foot facility.