The position of Secretary of State is very critical in most state governments. Secretary of States are supposed to promote an impartial, nonpartisan operation of elections. Why most states have this essential office as a partisan position is hard to understand.
For example, in California, the top educational official runs for office as a nonpartisan. That’s a great idea to keep education free of partisanship. Yet, the top election official is the Secretary of State and that is a partisan office. It simply makes no sense. If any office should be nonpartisan, then it should be the position as head of election operations.
Another good example is Ohio. Republican Jon Husted is the Secretary of State. Ohio, of course, is a swing state. The position of Secretary of State is to encourage voter turnout and make the election fair. Husted has repeatedly taken action to limit voting and now is proposing a method to reallocate the state’s electoral votes to benefit the Republican Party.
Back in September, Husted spoke of Ohio’s photo ID voter laws.
“I was listening to a show one night where they talked about these onerous rules, these onerous photo ID rules and the onerous rules in Ohio on photo ID,” he said. “Well, the photo ID law in Ohio is not onerous. As a matter of fact, I suspect the General Assembly will take up a more strict version of what we have after what we’ve been through with this election process.”
Despite minimal evidence of organized voter fraud, Husted envisions a more stringent form of voter ID becoming the law.
Husted was also on the losing end of a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling days before the election that ordered all voters be allowed early voting opportunities, not just the military. The court ruled that there was compelling evidence to have an expansive voting period for members of the military, but no compelling reason not to allow the same right to all voters. Being that all voters are supposed to be equal, it is hard to find something controversial in this – unless the agenda is to limit voters. Increasingly, that looks like Husted’s goal.
Husted doesn’t even care if he is upholding the law according to the courts. The court also ruled that it was the responsibility of election officials to make sure that provisional ballots are filled out properly so that a provisional ballot can be counted. Again, election officials know the law and should try in every way possible to let every voter have the opportunity to cast a ballot. There should be nothing controversial in this.
However, Husted felt that would be too confusing on Election Day so he issued orders that the voter be responsible for filling out the provisional ballot form. If it was filled out incorrectly, then poll workers should reject the form.
Coming as no surprise is that all these actions by Husted enhance the Republican vote and reduce the Democratic vote.
Despite Husted’s maneuvering, Barack Obama still carried Ohio. That brought Husted to a new idea. Since Ohio is voting Democratic with its 18 electoral votes, it should be split more proportionately, perhaps along the line of Maine and Nebraska. Of course, Husted did not use that reasoning to justify his proposal. No, Husted claims that he only wants to lessen the impact of Ohio in the presidential race.
For Ohioans who are tired of hearing Republicans and Democrats argue over election rules, the state’s top elections official has a theoretical solution. Secretary of State Jon Husted says Ohio could apportion its Electoral College votes in the presidential race in a proportional way, giving even the loser a big chunk of votes. That’s the way two other states do it, but Husted says at least it would dampen partisan conflict because Ohio would no longer be such a prize.
Husted: “It will not be a winner-take-all state, and you would not have another elections controversy about Ohio because we would not matter as much anymore.”
I’m sure Ohioans are sick and tired of all the campaign ads they had to endure. The same is true for voters throughout the swing states, but it is a rare government official who advocates that the candidates and their dollars should go elsewhere. It is so rare, and with Husted’s questionable history advocating voter suppression laws, this idea raises suspicion that there might be something sinister in Husted’s proposal. Surprise. Surprise. There is a catch, and it benefits the Republican nominee.
After the 2010 elections, Ohio’s congressional Districts were gerrymandered in such a way that twelve of the sixteen Congressional districts are safe Republican seats. Huge Democratic majorities were packed into four districts that even safer for the Democrats. If the Electoral College vote were apportioned as Nebraska and Maine do it, then Obama would get two electoral votes for winning the state, but only four for winning congressional districts. Romney would get twelve electoral votes for winning that number of congressional districts. The final tally: Obama wins the popular vote, but Romney gets twelve of eighteen electoral votes.
As Think Progress noted, if Husted’s idea was passed for some of the swing states, and the same concept was proposed by former Pennsylvania Gov. John Corbett last year, this would happen:
Indeed, if the Corbett/Husted plan to rig the Electoral College had been law in several key Republican-controlled states that President Obama won last Tuesday, America would now be looking at a very different future. Assuming that Mitt Romney won every congressional district that elected a Republican House candidate in these key states, the Corbett/Husted plan would have given Romney 17 electoral votes in Florida, 9 in Michigan, 12 in Ohio, 13 in Pennsylvania, 8 in Virginia, and 5 in Wisconsin — for a total of 64 additional electoral votes.
See, there’s nothing Husted’s trying to hide. He’s just trying to be a good Republican Secretary of State rigging the election in a way that only his side can win.
It’s about time this state office was removed as far as possible from partisan politics. It is too important to be used as a tool of partisan politics.