Ever since Ken Blackwell’s oversight of the Buckeye State’s 2004 presidential election resulted in the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, the Ohio secretary of state has played an outsized role in election administration.
Seven years later, with Republicans in at least 22 states across the country pushing voter ID laws, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) has broken with his party and criticized the effort, which restricts voters’ access to the ballot box.
As the GOP-controlled Ohio legislature considers a bill to restrict voting rights by instituting a photo ID requirement, Husted came out forcefully against such a move last week. In a statement from his office, Husted declared:
“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.”
Unfortunately, Husted is virtually alone among Ohio Republicans in opposing photo ID bills. Republicans in the state legislature will likely vote on such a measure next week, and Gov. John Kasich (R) has indicated he will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk. Husted conceded that, despite his role as the top elections official in the state, the matter “is in the hands of the General Assembly.”
Still, Husted’s strong opposition to the legislation is laudable. Photo ID bills are a solution in search of a problem. They fight the non-existent menace of voter fraud by preventing millions from voting and adding an unnecessary expense for taxpayers. Young people and minorities are especially impacted, with voter ID laws depressing Latino turnout by up to 10 percent.
But unless Husted is able to convince his fellow Republicans of these facts, thousands of Buckeye voters will again find themselves disenfranchised in next year’s presidential election.