Husted ready to deal with legal challenges

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COLUMBUS -- Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted was asked by a reporter last week if he expected legal challenges in the final months before the November presidential election.

He laughed and countered, "Is that a real question?" Translated: Of course there will be legal challenges.

Pushed further about specifics, Husted said he wasn't aware of any lawsuits on the immediate horizon.

"The people who don't like what I'm doing usually don't give me a heads up about it," he said.

Such is the plight of the state's chief elections official moving into what's being built up as the most important election in the history of this or any other universe.

Pushers of such nonsense, from all parts of the political spectrum, made the same assertions during the last presidential election, and they'll make them again four years from now.

But that's beside the point. Heated election years bring heated election rhetoric and, often times, heated election lawsuits. And Husted said his office is ready to deal with them.

"Our system is one of the best in the country," he said, adding, "The only people that really think that there's a problem are the partisans who have a political agenda for creating these issues less than 90 days before an election. If these were real problems, wouldn't we have heard about these things a long time ago?"

Husted said his office has taken steps to make voting even easier, unveiling an online system last week that allows voters to update their registration address. The statewide voter database is "in the best shape" ever, with cross checks completed using information on file with the bureau of motor vehicles.

Ohioans will be able to cast ballots starting a little more than a month before election day, completing the process from the comfort of their homes if they so desire.

"It's pretty darn convenient," Husted said.

He added, "I'm sure there will be lots of complaints between now and Election Day -- and lawsuits and litigation. ... We're ready."

Redistricting

Husted also told reporters last week that he is not supporting the redistricting reform package placed on the ballot by the group Voter First and to be decided in November.

Voters First wants to create a new citizens commission to draw the state's legislative and congressional district lines. The board would include four Republicans, four Democrats and four nonpartisan voters, with eight of the 12 members required to sign off on any districts. Lobbyists, politicians and large campaign contributors would not be allowed to serve, and districts would be drawn following specified criteria, including district compactness and competition.

Husted, who backed efforts to reform the state's redistricting and apportionment processes while he was serving in the Ohio House and Senate, doesn't think the Voters First approach is the right one for the state.

"Ohio needs to reform its redistricting process, but this is not reform," Husted said. "This has the potential to be just as bad or worse than the current system, for different reasons. ... It's time that both political parties try to end run the process and sit down with one another and try to do something that's fair and that they can agree upon."

He added, "The reformers run a great risk in what they're doing here, because I think they're going to lose. And when they lose, they're going to undermine the chance to really get this done in a bipartisan manner."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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