|Quiet Talks To Settle Disputed Election?|
With those results in a Deep Freeze, Hunter and Williams have filed to run against each other again this year for another seat on the two-judge juvenile court.
This time, Williams has the judgeship. An incumbent (Karla Grady) retired to create a vacancy. Gov. John Kasich appointed Williams, who is trying to hold onto the judgeship by seeking election in November's general election. So there is a rematch between Hunter and Williams even though their original contest has never been decided. That judgeship still sits open.
The Daily Bellwether has heard from well-placed insiders that a settlement -- if one can be reached -- ending litigation over the 2010 election would have to be approved by U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott of Cincinnati. Dlott has yet to rule on Hunter's request for a permanent injunction ordering the Board of Elections not to reject provisional ballots cast because of poll worker error. Dlott would retain jurisdiction under the settlement. Dlott is said to be urging the sides to try to work out their differences. But there is nothing in the court filings showing that talks for a negotiated settlement are on the table. And no one involved has gone on the record to openly discuss the mediation session.
Any possible settlement would likely put Hunter in office. It is widely agreed that the uncounted provisional ballots would trend her way. On Nov. 2, 2010, she was 2,800 votes behind in unofficial results. After some provisional were opened and added to her tally, she cut Williams lead to 23 votes. Then counting stopped with 849 provisional ballots left to go. If Hunter wins, she would become the only Democrat on the Juvenile Court, and would be the presiding judge because of seniority. She would have authority to administer the agency, long a GOP patronage bastion. Right now, Williams is the presiding judge even though he is unelected and serves by appointment of the governor. The Ohio Republican Party, which has intervened in the lawsuit, has dropped out of the case. The Ohio Democratic Party remains active and is supporting Hunter's demand that the provisional ballots be counted.
Any settlement would probably have to include a handshake agreement between the Republicans and Democrats for Hunter to drop out of this year's rematch with Williams, giving him a free ride at the polls and allowing him to stay in office. That would also have to include a provision that the Democrats not oppose Williams in 2014, when the term expires and he would have to seek reelection. Here's an excerpt from Hunter's trial brief against the Hamilton County Board of Elections that summarizes the dispute:
"D. Provisional Voting in the Wrong PrecinctMany of the legal filings in the U.S. District Court lawsuit are available by clicking here.
In the November 2, 2010 election there were 849 provisional voters whose ballots were
rejected by the Board because they were cast in the wrong precinct. Of those 849 ballots, 286 provisional voters were in the correct polling location when they voted in the wrong precinct.These 286 voters voted in a multiple precinct polling location. Some locations have multiple precincts voting in the same room. The voter must find the right table within the location. It is the duty of the poll worker to direct the voter to the correct precinct or table. (O.R.C. § 3505.181(C) (1); PX34, Secretary of State Directive 2010-74, p. 12; PX6, Hamilton County Board of Elections Poll Worker Comprehensive Manual, p. 7; PX7, Hamilton County Board of Elections Poll Worker Quick Guide, p. 2). There is confusion in multiple precinct polling locations because voters do not know which is their correct precinct table."