Alex Triantafilou

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s sudden decision not to run for a third-term next year leaves the county Republican party scrambling for a replacement.

The filing deadline for candidates in the March 15 primary is Dec. 16 – 23 days from now.

As of Thursday, early absentee ballots cast in Hamilton County in the May 6 primary were down 80 percent from what they were four years ago.

Democrats say this is explained by the fact that, unlike the May 2010 primary, every voter in the county was not mailed an absentee ballot application by the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

Republicans say it is simply a matter of no big candidate race or ballot issue driving early voters to get their ballots and mail them in – that this is, in fact, a ho-hum election.

The numbers are really striking.

There’s an old saying in the game of golf – “never up, never in.”

It means that if your ball is on the green, a long way from the cup, you have to swing your putter with an extra “oomph” to get the ball somewhere close to the hole. That way, if you don’t sink it, you have an easy tap-in putt.

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Update: The meeting to pitch Cincinnati for the 2016 GOP National Convention has been postponed, see tweet:

For years now, those people who cast early ballots in person at the Hamilton County Board of Elections have done so by going to the board’s offices at 824 Broadway downtown.

If a majority of the county commissioners and the two Republicans on the board of elections get their way, they will have to head to Mt. Airy to do that.

And a growing chorus of voices – mostly, but not entirely, Democrats, and most of the African-American leadership of Cincinnati – are saying that would be a raw deal for the thousands of voters who depend on public transportation to get around.

Democrats and Republicans on the Hamilton County Board of Elections are split over whether to move their headquarters from downtown to the former Mercy Mount Airy Hospital because of the issue of early in-person voting.

The Democrats on the board - Tim Burke and Caleb Faux - say moving to the Kipling road building would make it extremely hard for voters without cars to get to the board, which has one bus line. Many voters would have to take multiple buses to get to Mount Airy, they say.

Yes, Cincinnati has a costly and contentious mayor’s race going on.

Yes, there is a mob of 21 candidates scrambling to win one of nine seats on city council. And, yes, there are plenty of controversial issues, from the streetcar to the parking lease to the city’s woeful pension system, for the candidates to argue about.

And yet, the truth is, there are clear indications that Nov. 5 will see the lowest turnout election in Cincinnati in many a decade. Maybe ever.

And what is the particular tea leaf we can read that would lead us to this conclusion?

So far, during the months of investigation into alleged voter fraud in the 2012 election, the two Republicans and two Democrats on the Hamilton County Board of Elections have, for the most part, played nice, with partisan bickering down to a minimum.

That could change very quickly Wednesday morning, when the board of elections next meets.

That’s when the board will take up the issue of whether to refer more cases of alleged “voter  anomalies” – that is the polite word they have been using for cases of alleged voter fraud – to the Hamilton County prosecutor.