Ohio county finds ballot fix after candidate death

LISA CORNWELL Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Elections officials in southwest Ohio have come up with a quick ballot fix after last week's death of a coroner candidate running unopposed in a Democratic primary.

Hamilton County officials said Wednesday they'll avoid a costly reprinting of nearly 200,000 ballots and still follow state law while getting the name of a replacement candidate for Dr. Anant Bahti on the Democratic ballot.

Bahti was appointed in 2010 as coroner of the county, which includes Cincinnati, after the former coroner resigned. He was seeking his party's nomination on March 6 to run for his first full term when he died after a fall. Democratic leaders must select a replacement candidate by Friday.

Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou, who is also chairman of the county Board of Elections, said state law "allows the Democratic Party to replace him on the ballot, and we worked in a bipartisan way to follow the law and save taxpayers money."

Officials will reprint ballots with the new candidate's name only for those voting early at the elections board office or by mail. Voters casting ballots at polls will use electronic machines that will be reprogrammed to include the name.

Elections board member Caleb Faux, executive director of the county's Democratic Party, said reprinting all ballots might have cost more than $100,000.

"I don't know of any circumstance quite like this that has come up before in the county or the state," Faux said.

Faux and Triantafilou said the situation points out a need to update provisions of Ohio's election law that date back to the 1950s and don't reflect changes in the voting process. Sally Krisel, the county's director of elections, agreed that perhaps the law should be reviewed, noting that the board had no previous situations for guidance.

Matt McClellan, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jon Husted, said the office left it up to the county board to determine how to proceed.

Officials had considered placing stickers on each ballot to cover Bahti's name with the new candidate's, a move allowed under state law, Krisel said. But they determined that it would be difficult to place stickers on thousands of ballots and that they could do an in-house reprinting of the smaller number of ballots needed for early voters.

A write-in candidate was not a legal option because the filing deadline for those candidates had passed and ballots were not printed with a write-in section, officials said.

Any votes already cast for Bahti will be lost since state law prohibits the counting or recording of votes for candidates who have died.

The Republican candidate for coroner is Dr. Peter Kambelos, who is unopposed on the Republican ballot.