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More News from Cincinnati: Police Officers Registered at Work, Not Home Address

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[Image courtesy of collectors-badges]

I've already covered the ongoing investigation in Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio where local officials have been reviewing voter lists to look for potential problems.

Last month, I shared the story about RV owners using a motor home park address to register, which raised questions about domicile and its role in the registration process. The latest story out of Cincinnati highlights a different (but just as interesting) issue: police officers who used their work address - a police station - as their registration address.

Cincinnati.com has more:

Thirty law enforcement officers across Hamilton County used police stations where they work as their address when registering to vote - a felony crime.

It's punishable by up to a year in prison.

Ohio law says voters must register where they live. The law says the voter must "knowingly" file a false registration - which can be tough to prove.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has ordered all Boards of Elections to review voter registration rolls to flag commercial addresses that cannot be used for registration.

"Part of our review was to determine which addresses were appropriate and how to mark them in the system," said Hamilton County Board of Elections Director Amy Searcy. "The goal is to get everyone's address corrected."

A Hamilton County Board of Elections staff worker discovered the police station registries last month when doing voter roll research.

The county Elections Board is set to discuss the issue at today's meeting.

It's unclear if any of the 30 officers cast ballots while registered at the police stations; the board still is researching that.

The officers aren't alone in the county. They join 285 people who are registered at places other than where they live.

Of those, 25 are registered at UPS stores; eight at U.S. Post Offices; and 252 at other places, according to the board.

The elections board issued challenges to 197 voter registrations and are considering challenging another 24. If a voter is challenged, that means the next time the person votes, they must show proof that they live at the address where they are registered.

It's worth noting, however, that police officers do present a special case; many jurisdictions allow them to protect their home addresses from public view in order to protect their safety as well as their families':

Under Ohio law peace officers, Bureau of Criminal Investigation investigators, prosecutors, assistant prosecutors, corrections employees, youth services employees, firefighters, emergency management technicians and parole officers may request to have their addresses redacted from public view.

They must make the request in writing at their local Board of Elections office.

In Hamilton County, 151 voters have taken steps to keep their address private from the public, records show.

For the time being, Hamilton County is giving the officers the benefit of the doubt and allowing them to fix the questioned records:

What should happen to the police officers registered at their stations? In past cases where voters registered at addresses they shouldn't have, the board's two Democratic members have suggested it was a mistake and the people should simply correct the address. But the two Republican board members have suggested the cases might need to be referred to the prosecutor's office for investigation - but they haven't voted to do so.

In this case there is bipartisan agreement that the officers should be given a chance to correct the problem.

"We need to be focused on correcting these rather than punishing them," said Tim Burke, chairman of the elections board and the county's Democratic party chairman. "Whatever we decide to do, it has to be even-handed. We can't treat non-police officers one way and police officers another."

Police officers need to protect their anonymity, said Board of Elections member Alex Triantafilou, who is also the county's Republican Party chairman.

He agrees with Burke that a chance to fix the address is the best solution.

"I don't think anyone at the board is interested in pursuing charges," Triantafilou said.

If nothing else, Hamilton County's ongoing review is surfacing lots of interesting stories and highlighting how complex registration issues are for voters and election officials alike.

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