"Right church, wrong pew" voters must be counted

Jul 16, 2013

An issue which left a Hamilton County Juvenile Court judgeship in legal limbo for months after the 2010 election has been resolved once and for all by a federal district court judge in Columbus.

U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley has made permanent a ruling he issued last year saying that provisional ballots cast by voters who show up at the right polling place but the wrong precinct table must be counted.

That was the main issue after the November 2010 election when Republican John Williams edged out Democrat Tracie Hunter by a handful of votes. Hunter filed suit in federal court, claiming that hundreds of those voters - known as "right church, wrong pew" voters - should have their votes counted.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott ultimately ruled in Hunter's favor; the votes were counted and Hunter won the election. Williams was later appointed to a vacancy on the juvenile court.

The ruling Judge Marbley made came from a different case - one filed in 2006 by a union and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in 2006. Marbley ordered that the "right church, wrong pew" ballots be counted in the 2012 election in Ohio.

Marbley made his injunction permanent Friday.

Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke, who is also chair of the county board of elections, said Marbley's ruling is "entirely consistent" with Dlott's ruling in the Hunter case.