Voter's group gives elections chief poor grade

Sep 24, 2012

Ohio’s top elections official, Jon Husted, is getting failing marks from a group that says it is representing the rights of Ohio voters. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles has more on the story. 

The Ohio Unity Coalition’s Diedre Reese gives Secretary of State Jon Husted straight F’s when it comes to making the upcoming election accessible to voters and making ballot issues easy for voters to understand.

Reese - Secretary of State Jon Husted is getting a job performance report card and I think we need to have a parent teacher conference if we want him to pass.  We need an intervention right now.

Reese says Husted bungled an opportunity given to him by the Ohio Supreme Court to re-write and clarify ballot language for the proposed redistricting constitutional amendment.  Reese says Husted helped make the ballot language more complicated and didn’t accurately tell voters what the issue is about.  And she says Husted is making it difficult for voters to cast ballots in person by limiting hours for in person voting at boards of elections and not allowing weekend voting.  Matt McClellan with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office disagrees.

McClellan - Common Cause, Rutger’s University Law School and Verified Vote Foundation rated Ohio as one of the top 6 states in the nation for elections preparedness.  The Military Voter Protection has named us an all star state and Common Cause has recently commended Secretary of State Husted for his work in providing county boards of elections with guidance for handling voter challenges.

McClellan says all Ohioans can vote, by mail, at their convenience.  And he says many Ohioans are taking advantage of that opportunity.

McClellan – More than 97 hundred military and overseas absentee ballots went out Saturday without a glitch and we’ve already received more than 713,400 absentee ballot requests which means we are on pace to possibly set a vote by mail record.

McClellan says Ohioans are not limited to voting by mail.

McClellan Thanks to what the Secretary has done in setting uniform hours at boards of elections in the state, they have 230 hours to go early in person and not to mention, there’s still all day on Election day from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. so we feel there’s ample opportunity for voters to cast a ballot this year and it should be overall a very smooth process.

But Diedre Reese says the fact is that many people will not be able to cast ballots in person at boards of elections this year because they cannot make it to the polls during hours they are open.

Reese - There are people, particularly in your urban centers, they may work in the urban center but maybe they live somewhere else.  People drive in from Dayton.  People drive in from Springfield.  People drive in from Lancaster.  What about them?  They may not have time to get home to make it to their particular polling location but they want to have the opportunity for that in person casting of their ballot.

Reese wants Husted to restore weekend voting hours that were available for voters back in 2008.  She says absentee paper ballots are not a good substitute.

Reese – What we wish Secretary Husted and some other politicians understood is that many people actually want to do that in person, particularly people of color who had family members/ancestors die for the right to be able to go stand in line.  People were killed because they wanted to go stand in line and cast their ballot, not do it in secret, not do it in their home but do it in a corporate manner.  Why take that away? The law affords it.  Secretary Husted has decided he wants to do something that really is not what the law says.

Ohio still might have weekend voting hours on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election day but it won’t be because Secretary of State Husted wants it.  A federal court is considering an appeal by the state to overturn a lower court ruling, granting those weekend hours on that weekend.  If the court does not grant the appeal, and another court doesn’t intervene, Ohioans could end up voting on that weekend after all.