COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – In a statement Friday afternoon that may earn him his own profile in courage award, new Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted parted ways with many of his former GOP colleagues, who are poised to pass a bill next week that would impose a new standard to vote in Ohio. Democrats and other election experts say it is both unnecessary and a likely violation of federal election law, and that it would leapfrog Ohio over Georgia and Indiana, two states whose voter laws are currently perceived as the harshest ones in the nation.
Husted minced no words on whether he would capitulate to or oppose an attempt by a Republican-led legislature to require an otherwise registered voter to present a valid photo ID before voting. The bill in question, HB 159, raced through the Ohio House and is expected to come to the floor of the Senate next week, where the GOP enjoys a lopsided majority of 23-10.
Yesterday, at a media conference held to discuss other matters, Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich, who won the office last November with only 23.5 percent of registered voters or less than half of half of Ohio’s voting population, told reporters he anticipates signing the bill that would preempt voter fraud, a phenomena Republicans have long claimed is rampant while actual evidence for its practice is slim to none.
In a short statement agency communicators said may be attributed in whole or in part to the first-term chief elections officer regarding the photo ID bill pending in the legislature, General Assembly, Husted said, “I want to be perfectly clear, when I began working with the General Assembly to improve Ohio’s elections system it was never my intent to reject valid votes. I would rather have no bill than one with a rigid photo identification provision that does little to protect against fraud and excludes legally registered voters’ ballots from counting.”
Knowing his voice on this or any other issue about elections and voting is only as strong as majority lawmakers allow it to be, Husted said, “It is in the hands of the General Assembly.”
Secretary of State Husted also finds himself on a different page than Gov. Kasich, who won his office as Husted did last fall when Republicans swept the elections for statewide seats like auditor, treasurer, attorney general.
A Kasich administration spokesman denied published reports that unnamed officials from the governor’s office were talking with some members of the Ohio Ballot Board about the possibility of dividing SB 5, Ohio’s law that severely restricts what public workers can bargain collectively over and the process for such negotiation, into multiple parts.
Kasich told reporters that he understands the law does not permit such divisions.
The Ohio Ballot Board prescribes and certifies the ballot language for proposed Constitutional amendments, initiatives, and referenda and oversees efforts to inform voters of proposed ballot issues.
Current OBB members are Secretary of State Jon Husted, Chairperson, William N. Morgan, Vice-Chairperson, Sen. Keith Faber, Fred Strahorn and Rebecca L. Egelhoff, Esq.
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