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Elections board split over move to Mount Airy

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.

Republicans board members Alex Triantafilou  and Chip Gerhardt argue that it is too good an offer for the board to pass up; and that there other ways of casting early votes other than showing up at the board of elections.

Catholic Health Partners, which owns the building, has offered the building to the county, but wants a decision from the commissioners by the end of the month. And the county commissioners want the board to move.

But the Democrats on the board say they are not ready to make a decision.

"I could support this if there was a way for us to keep early in-person voting downtown,'' Burke said. "Bus service to (Mount Airy) is minimal at best,'' Burke said. "Bus service to this location is as good as it gets."

Burke said the move would disproportionately impact African-American voters, many of whom do not have cars to drive to the Mount Airy.

Triantafilou said the Democrats' concerns are overblown.

"Our community is largely a community of people who drive cars,'' Triantafilou said. "This site will actually be more accessible. There is free parking. Hundreds of spots."

And, Triantafilou said, "you can vote from home by absentee ballot for 35 days before the election. It is easy to vote early in Ohio."

Hamilton County coroner Lakshmi Sammaarco wants the first floor of the building for a new crime lab. But the commissioners have suggested that the board move there too. The county is currently paying seven hundred thousand dollars a year for the board's current space at eight-twenty-four Broadway.

The board of elections met for nearly three hours Tuesday morning, hearing from a number of members of the public, most of whom opposed the move.

"Getting to that location when there is only one bus line that goes there would be a significant problem for people who go from, say, Kennedy Heights,'' said Ishton Morton, president of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP. "This would take multiple bus trips."

Jeff Alluoto, the assistant Hamilton County administrator, said that if the board decides to make the move, it would take anywhere from a year to 18 months to refurbish the building for the board of elections, the coroner's office and possibly some sheriff's department functions.

The board of elections agreed to meet again next Monday, where a vote on the move will be taken.