Husted: Change Election Law Now

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted believes the General Assembly needs to enact some election-related laws “before the next big election.”

Husted is seeking changes that would allow voters to register to vote online and obtain absentee ballots through their computers. He also wants all county boards of elections to have the same hours of operations, and for updates to be made to Ohio’s provisional ballot voting process.

Husted also is pushing lawmakers to reform how redistricting is done in the state.

“There’s a timing issue on this, because there’s voting going on all the time in Ohio,” he said. “This just doesn’t need to be done for the presidential election. It needs to be done now, so we can run these elections efficiently and effectively.

“On the technology front, just because the General Assembly passes a law doesn’t mean I just flip a switch and it all works,” he continued. “It requires a lot of work. The sooner they give me the authority, the sooner I can get this in place and I can test it to make sure it works for the next big election.”

The closer the state gets to the next “big election” – whether it be next year’s gubernatorial race or the 2016 presidential election – the more controversy any reforms are likely to cause, Husted believes. And he said changes to how Ohio officials conduct redistricting must be enacted before district lines are redrawn after the 2020 election.

Husted added there is legislation before the General Assembly – based on measures he proposed when a member – that would change the redistricting process.

“I would like to take the partisan aspect of drawing the districts out – make it a bipartisan process,” he said.

Husted proposes a seven-member redistricting board, comprised of the governor, auditor and secretary of state, along with two Democratic members of the legislature and two Republican members. A five-vote supermajority vote would be needed to approve any redistricting map, including at least one vote from the minority party.

The maps would not be permitted to break up any counties to form congressional or legislative districts.

“That doesn’t mean we will have 16 competitive congressional districts in Ohio … ,” Husted said, acknowledging Ohio could lose two of its current 18 congressional seats after 2020. “In the end, you’ll have some Republican districts, some Democratic districts and some swing districts. That will be more reflective of how people live in Ohio, how people see things. We’ll have a better chance of sending a delegation to Washington that is focused on solving problems and not just focused on winning elections.”