Ohio probably will play a key role in presidential politics - again - this year. Buckeye State residents surely do not want to repeat the mistakes of 2004, when there were allegations that inefficiency in taking and counting votes was part of some sort of partisan conspiracy.
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, as the state's chief elections officer, bears a gigantic burden in that regard. What she does and says will be viewed by many as setting the tone for the Nov. 4 general election.
Thus far, Brunner's tone has been a sour one, raising legitimate questions about whether the Democrat leader is handling her office in a fair-minded way. As we have reported for several months, Brunner sometimes appears to be more interested in control than in nonpartisanship.
A majority of members of the state Supreme Court apparently agree. Earlier this month, in a 4-3 decision, they rejected action taken by Brunner in Summit County.
According to published reports, Brunner was a factor in removing a Republican from the Summit County Board of Elections. That created a vacancy, and the county Republican Party Executive Committee selected a replacement. Brunner refused to allow that man to take the seat, instead naming another Republican to fill it. She did so, again according to published reports, with input from Democrat leaders.
The Supreme Court ordered that the man initially selected by the Summit County GOP Executive Committee be placed on the Board of Elections.
That is not the first time Brunner has been accused of playing politics. The Columbus Dispatch has reported that Brunner ousted a member of the state Board of Voting Machine Examiners because he disagreed with her position concerning electronic touch-screen voting machines.
That position itself is controversial. While many Ohioans - and their county elections boards - are comfortable with the machines, Brunner wants to do away with them and use paper ballots instead.
Brunner's motives already have come into question, then. It will be difficult, no matter what she does, for her to win the undiluted trust of Ohio Republicans before the Nov. 4 election. Still, she needs to make the attempt. If Ohio's chief elections officer is viewed as a partisan manipulator, there is no doubt that the results of the general election will be controversial.