CINCINNATI (AP) - A federal appeals court will make the next decision in a still-disputed juvenile court judge election in Hamilton County.
Lawyers for Hamilton County and Republican John Williams are contesting a federal judge's ruling that about 150 disputed ballots should be counted before the winner is declared. The ballots were excluded because they were cast at the wrong precincts, but the judge said they should be counted because they apparently were miscast because of poll worker errors.
A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals heard arguments Thursday evening about the Nov. 2 election, whose results gave Williams a 23-vote victory.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that lawyers for Democrat Tracie Hunter say the government must investigate any mistake that could disenfranchise voters.
"There needs to be a meaningful investigation here," said attorney Jennifer Branch.
"Mistakes happen. Elections aren't perfect," said Dave Stevenson, attorney for the county's board of elections. "Mistakes just don't rise to a constitutional level."
The case has potential implications for future Ohio elections beyond the juvenile judge race because it raises the question of whether state election laws adequately protect the constitutional rights of voters.
One of the three judges, John Rogers, expressed concern about a rise in election challenges in court.
"We don't want to have a system where every time the vote is close, we have to have a federal case," said Rogers.
The Ohio Supreme Court and Secretary of State Jon Husted say the poll workers were right to exclude ballots cast at the wrong place.
The appeals judges didn't indicate when they would rule.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)