New Butler County elections director named

With a big election looming the Butler County Board of Elections has promoted interim Director Nicole Unzicker to the top staff spot after long-time chief Diane Noonan stepped aside for health reasons.

Unzicker, 43, has been working for the BOE since 2015 first in the voter registration department, then elevated to the early voter administrator position in 2020. She assumed the interim director position in March, she said she has experience with everything “from registration all the way to election day.”

“It’s not something that I would take lightly, not at all,” Unzicker said. ”It was a big decision, it’s a very important position, it is, especially at this time, with these elections coming up and kind of the scrutiny the Board of Elections has been under for a little bit of time now.”

The entire election process has been under fire since 2020 when President Joe Biden was elected and former President Donald Trump and his supporters claimed the election was stolen. She said they have been getting “more comments and questions regarding the security of elections and the process recently” so she and Deputy Director Eric Corbin “plan on being transparent and explaining all of the security measures that are in place.”

“We want to make sure the public is informed with facts and that we’re giving information,” Unzicker said. “I know a lot of people get some information from the media which could overlook other states and not have exactly the correct information for Butler County.”

ExploreWant to vote in the Nov. 8 election? Here’s everything you need to know

The BOE board is comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans and the panel voted unanimously — Democratic Chairman Frank Cloud was not in attendance — to appoint the new Republican director. State law mandates the chairman and director must be from opposite political parties. The director and deputy director also may not be members of the same political party.

Corbin said the job was posted and about five people applied, the board conducted interviews and Unzicker was chosen. She grew up in Ross Twp. and she and her husband John have a “happy blended family” with five children ages 5 to 19. She was realtor for many years prior to joining the BOE, “I just absolutely loved the election process.”

Noonan, who has been the director since 2015, had a kidney transplant last year and told the Journal-News she tried to tough it out after the surgery but it became apparent she needed to retire.

“The doctors know I’m very dedicated to my work and they just told me and I agreed it was just time to take care of myself,” Noonan said.

The upcoming Nov. 8 election has a jam-packed ballot with more than a dozen statewide races including the governorship, U.S. Congress and Senate, state representatives, county auditor and commissioner and a host of tax levy questions.

Early voting starts Oct. 12, voters can cast ballots at the BOE offices during the week beginning then, and they will also be open on Saturdays two weeks prior to election day. Corbin said four years ago the voter turnout was 54% which is pretty typical for statewide races, compared to the 2020 presidential when 73% of the 256,930 registered voters cast ballots.

The BOE offices are tucked away off the beaten path, and in 2020 voters trying to get there snarled traffic in the area. Traffic has backed up on Ohio 129, Hampshire Drive and Princeton Road. The left turn signal on Ohio 129 onto Hampshire Drive isn’t long enough to let many cars through, and there is no stop sign at Princeton and Hampshire, so left turns are difficult.

Corbin said they are preparing for the worst by issuing detours a week prior to election day. Beginning Oct. 28 they will close northbound Hampshire from Ohio 129 to Princeton Road, they’ll play it by ear in case things get clogged prior to that date.

“Early voting rams up closer to the election so we’re hoping there’s not an issue prior to the start date,” Corbin said. “If there is then the plan would be to start the detour earlier if we need to. Historically we have a lot of people come out on the first day because they’re excited to vote on the first day and then it kind of dies off.”

All information pertaining to the Nov. 8 election is available on the BOE website elections.bcohio.gov.

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