Jon Husted: The Powerful Official Behind Ohio’s Vote

Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted is ready for a fight. Come Nov. 7, he may get one — and the presidency may depend on the outcome

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Jay LaPrete / AP

Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted speaks during a rally at the Muskingum County Fairgrounds in Zanesville, Ohio, in 2010

As an All-American defensive back on the 1989 Division III champion University of Dayton football team, Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted played in some big games. Come Nov. 7, he may be a player in the biggest contest in all of politics, with the U.S. presidency riding on the outcome.

Husted makes the rules for how and when Ohio’s votes are cast. In a tight race like the one between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, those rules can determine who wins the state’s 18 Electoral College votes — and the White House. Despite the presence in Ohio of thousands of lawyers for both campaigns, Husted has not shied away from controversy. He fought early voting the weekend before the election all the way to the Supreme Court this year and lost. On Nov. 2, he issued a directive making provisional ballots less likely to be counted by requiring voters to fill out extra paperwork.

As it happened, voter turnout over the weekend was robust, especially in Democratic counties, and in retrospect, Husted’s efforts seemed to some on the left to be anti-democratic. That has made Husted a target for those who say he’s using the office of secretary of state to give the GOP an advantage. “He is the secretary of suppression,” state senator Nina Turner said on MSNBC on Monday. “He tried to suppress every single vote in this state.”

(PHOTOS: America Votes: Election 2012)

In an interview with TIME on Monday afternoon, Husted shrugged off the criticism. “My job is to deliver an election that runs smoothly and well,” he said. He added that some of the attacks are politically motivated. “People are going to attack you to obtain political advantage,” Husted said. “The goal of the other side is to make me look bad.” And indeed, some Democrats are comparing Husted to Katherine Harris, the secretary of state of Florida during the disastrous recount in 2000.

Husted is not as easy to caricature as the Democrats would like. As speaker of the Ohio house of representatives, he supported passage of an election-reform law designed to fix the problems of overcrowding that beset the 2004 election. That bill established broad early voting in the state for the first time. In 2011, he opposed an attempt by Ohio’s Republican-led legislature to impose a strict voter-ID law of the sort Democrats successfully fought elsewhere in the country. “I don’t believe that you need to have a photo ID to provide for voter security,” he told NPR last year. And in August, he implemented a rule that allowed 106,000 voters to change their addresses online, which meant they will cast regular ballots, not provisional ones, at the polls on Tuesday.

But if Husted looks moderate from one angle, from another his moderation seems to be as much about political smarts as it is about centrism. In 2010, he campaigned for secretary of state on the idea of leveling the playing field for all voters in Ohio and said he wanted to apply the same rules to everyone. But he found ways of making uniformity work for GOP interests.

(MORE: Why Ohio Will Decide the Presidential Election)

When some counties wanted to expand early voting to after-work hours and weekends, for example, he said he would intervene and enforce traditional rules only if local officials were evenly split on the issue, a seemingly uniform decision that would largely keep voting hours tight.

But because all Ohio counties have two Democrats and two Republicans deciding voting hours, and since Democrats generally see an advantage in longer voting hours, it was heavily Republican counties that ended up with expanded voting hours. Deadlocks came in largely Democratic counties, where the two Republicans tended to vote against expanding the hours. Husted broke the ties in favor of limiting voting hours, and not surprisingly, Ohio ended up with more early-voting advantages for Republicans than before.

When the New York Times highlighted the distinctly non-uniform early-voting rules, Husted quickly passed a statewide rule setting uniform, extended early-voting hours in all 88 counties. He then tried to restrict them on the weekend before the presidential election, the most active time for working class early voters.

(MORE: The Keys to Ohio: Five Counties That Could Decide the Presidency)

Husted defended his handling of the expansion of early voting and his efforts to block voting the weekend before the election. “We have the most liberal voting opportunities of any state in our area, and I settled that issue fairly, uniformly and consistently across every county,” he said.

He also said he’s ready for possible court battles after Tuesday’s vote if there is a recount that challenges some of his recent rulemaking. He said many of the attacks against him are preparing the ground for such court battles. “That’s absolutely the case, and I don’t lament that. It’s just life being secretary of state in the most important swing state in the country,” he said. “People are going to sue and create controversy to prepare the environment for postelection contests.”

Husted said he knew what he was getting into when he decided to run for the office in 2010 after a decade in the state legislature that included four years as speaker. So far, he has chosen his battles with care, showing he has not just a stomach for the contest but the smarts to play through the whole game. That may leave some Democrats in a rage, but it has some Republicans wondering where Husted’s willingness to fight will take him next.

PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, Oct. 26–Nov. 2

311 comments
melody_is_here
melody_is_here

Anyone who takes away or attempts to suppress voter's rights of Americans is a traitor and is  not a true-blooded American.  Be careful backing true Americans into a corner; we come out fighting every time.  Remember the Civil War?  Remember the march on Washington?  Remember the Navy Seals and the now deceased Bin Laden?

Never mess with the Civil Rights of Americans.  We respond in large numbers and strong conviction.  True Americans love this country enough to fight fairly.  Only cowards have to cheat, and lower the bar, and carry on -- Cowards and losers.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

Donald Trump just went off the rails and into the deep-weeds.  Tweeting to encourage people to "march on Washington to stop this travesty", and "we are not a democracy".  So, the real identity of "LiberalLies" is finally known! 

Another victim to Guiliani-ism

notsacredh
notsacredh

I'd like to thank Nate Silver and math for helping me to sleep at night. There has never been an election that I worried less than this one. Winning every single bet I made on this election was just a bonus.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

Farewell Rod, Rusty and Groeny.  Any final words before you ride-off (or whatever trolls do) into the electoral sunset?

notsacredh
notsacredh

Winning the presidency is great. There aren't any words for the chance to swing the Supreme Court to the left for a generation.

notsacredh
notsacredh

It's OVER! I'm one happy camper. What a night. 

thewholetruth
thewholetruth

OBAMA JUST WON ..TO HELL WITH THE SOUTHERN RACIST BASTARDS1

mylob
mylob

I'm not a death penalty supporter, but I'm beginning to think that capital punishment is very appropriate in voter fraud cases. People like Jon Husted are a direct threat to our democracy. Attempting to subvert the Constitution is a capital offense in the military, why not for this guy. Unlike crimes of passion or moments of crisis where a person kills somebody in a temporary rage, the antics of Jon Husted are very, very premeditated with planning and foresight with the intention of subverting the very foundation of America and our democracy.

fitty_three
fitty_three

20% in in FLA Obama by 8,000 votes out of 1.6 million.

JosephMaldonado
JosephMaldonado

The definition of  treach·er·y (trch-r)n. pl. treach·er·ies

1. Willful betrayal of fidelity, confidence, or trust; perfidy.2. The act or an instance of such betrayal.

Ohio Secretary of State is a Traitor to the our democracy and The Constitution of The United States. Instead of making it easy for citizens to vote he has done everything in his power to subvert that right. This guy is a traitor to our Constitution and out country. This tea party buffoon ignores that basic fact and has done everything in his power to thwart that right, a right paid for with the lives and precious blood of Americans for over 200 years.  

kathy
kathy

Anybody know if Nate Silver's live blogging tonight?  Surprised he isn't up yet.

fitty_three
fitty_three

mourdock ahead in Indy - 56 to 39 Indy

ArmandWinter
ArmandWinter

How does Mitt Romney get away with laundering billions of unreported income in the Caymans through a bank owned by his church? 

Wikipedia said that essentially until I started posting it and then"The Only True Church" edited wikipedia.  No kidding, Mormon owns ZionsBancorp who got $700M in TARP bought Amegy Bank of Houston and theyhave a bank in the Caymans.

How does Mitt Romney get away with laundering billions of unreported income in the Caymans through a bank owned by his church?

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

I just voted. Thus, the President has one additional vote in his corner. YIPEEEEE

proudtxblue
proudtxblue

It's very discouraging to see so much Republican voter suppression and much has been documented today. As a vet, these types of anti-democracy antics are contrary to the freedoms so many have given their lives for.  It's appalling!

Oregon election worker fired for altering ballots to Republican straight ticket = 

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/11/06/oregon-election-worker-fired-for-altering-ballots-to-republican-straight-ticket/

VOTER FRAUD IN FAIRFAX = http://notlarrysabato.typepad.com/doh/2012/11/voter-fraud-in-fairfax.html

GOP Efforts Succeed in Lowering Black Early Voting in Florida = http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/11/06/oregon-election-worker-fired-for-altering-ballots-to-republican-straight-ticket/

OH SOS Husted Busted - Installed Uncertified & Untested Software on OH Voting Machines = http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/05/1156320/-BREAKING-OH-SOS-Husted-Busted-for-Installing-Uncertified-Untested-Software-on-OH-Voting-Machine

crikeysmith
crikeysmith

"As an All-American defensive back on the 1989 Division III champion University of Dayton football team, Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted played in some big games."LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. oooooooooookay, Time!

grape_crush
grape_crush

"Apparently Fairfax County Clerk John T. Frey, a Republican, had sent in to the electoral board "2,000 names" of people who had "not shown up for jury duty" to be removed as registered voters.

Mr. Crawford told the electoral board he had not received a letter for jury duty in years, and when he had to opt out some time ago it was because he was a member of the foreign service stationed overseas, and he sent in that information and received a letter back confirming that he had been waived from jury duty."

outsider
outsider

We have a lot of iconic images of the Obama era. Far too many are ugly. The photo of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Tea Party darling, disrespectfully waving her pointed finger in the president’s face is one of the worst.

Maybe that’s why I loved the very different image of an older white woman that’s attached to this story. She is taking the president’s head in her hands with passion, like she might a grandson. AP merely termed her an “unidentified Obama supporter” in its caption, so I don’t even know who she is. I wish we did.

Theoretically, this woman could be Obama’s grandmother, who was white herself. Oddly, it’s a funny X-ray of my other favorite Obama image: A young black boy touching the president’s hair to see whether it felt like his own. They represent two very different impulses to reach out and touch this very singular American president.

It pains me that the presidential race is coming down to race. I want to believe that women like this lovely unidentified Ohio voter are in the majority among white people, but I know they’re not. The president trails Mitt Romney 54-37 percent among whites in the latest Pew poll (although that’s down from 58-34 two weeks ago.) He’s behind with white women who are older than 50 by 51-43; the gap is bigger with the same cohort of men, 55-37. The only group of whites Obama is winning nationally is 18-29 year olds, where he leads Romney 46-44, less than he did in 2008.

To an awkward extent, Obama’s fate today comes down to white people. Pollsters and analysts agree: If the electorate that turns out in 2012 is more than 75 percent white (it was 74 percent in 2008 and 77 percent in 2010), Obama almost certainly loses. If it’s 74 percent or less, Obama wins. Clearly, if Democrats behaved like Republicans, they’d look for ways to suppress the white vote.

Let’s go there: What does it mean that white Republican governors in swing states worked hard to limit voting rights after the president’s stunning and overwhelming victory in 2008? How can we tolerate the fact that Rick Scott, John Kasich and Scott Walker and their GOP allies took the lead in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin in restricting early voting hours or otherwise limiting voter access in their states, after the Democratic coalition of young, non-white and low-income voters, who are notoriously hard to get to the polls, helped elect our first black president? Should Mitt Romney win, God forbid, we will be debating that scandal for a long, long time. As long as Florida 2000.

http://www.salon.com/2012/11/06/can_white_voters_really_doom_obama/

outsider
outsider

This just in from AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka:

Ohio union members are energized and overwhelmingly supporting President Obama and Senator Sherrod Brown for reelection.By a 41-point margin, Ohio union members are voting for President Obama (70%) over Mitt Romney (29%) in the presidential race. The early vote among Ohio union members tilts even more heavily in President Obama’s favor (79% to 21%).

Obama’s support among Ohio union members has increased by five percentage points since 2008. Our Election Night and post-election polling in 2008 showed Obama winning 65% of the Ohio union vote, so even accounting for each poll’s margin of error, Obama currently is performing at least as well among Ohio members, if not better, than he did in 2008.

Senator Sherrod Brown also is in a strong position to win Ohio thanks to strong support among the state’s union members, among whom he leads Josh Mandel by 70% to 29%.

Strong Democratic performance among Ohio union members is reducing Romney’s support among key demographic groups that he needs in order to carry Ohio.

Obama and Brown are carrying 70% of the union vote in Ohio despite the fact that the membership there is 83% white, 40% Evangelical Christian, and 53% gun owners—all groups where Romney needs to “run up the score” in order to stay in contention.

Indeed, Obama is winning 65% of white union members, 50% of Evangelical union members, and 59% of union gun households.

http://www.salon.com/2012/11/06/election_day_liveblog/

outsider
outsider

Christie on Romney's campaign - where are all the people who complained about Obama going to Vegas???

"I told Governor Romney at that time that if the storm landed as predicted that it was going to be catastrophic to New Jersey and unprecedented," Christie said. "I said to him, 'Listen, Mitt, if this storm hits the way I think it's going to, I'm off the campaign trail from here to Election Day.' And he said to me, 'Chris, of course. That's what you have to do. Do your job, don't worry about me. I'll take care of things.' So all this other noise, I think, is coming from know-nothing, disgruntled Romney staffers who, you know, don't like the fact that I said nice things about the President of the United States. Well, that's too bad for them."

"He told me last Sunday night that he expected no other political travel or help from me over the course of the remaining time between then and the election, if in fact the storm hit the way it was projected," Christie continued. "If it missed us, I would have been happy to go out on the road and help him. But it didn't."

The superstorm devastated parts of New Jersey and left millions without power. President Barack Obama declared New Jersey a major disaster area, freeing up federal aid to help with the storm recovery.

Christie said last week that the federal response "has been great."

"I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president personally," Christie said. "The president has been outstanding in this, and so the folks of FEMA, Craig Fugate and his folks have been excellent."

Politico reported earlier this week that Romney insiders were unhappy with Christie's praise for Obama, which one described as "over the top."

A source inside Romney's campaign also told Jon Ward that Christie should have attended a rally in Morrisville, Pa., 20 minutes from Trenton, the New Jersey capital.

"You can't tell me he couldn't have gone over there for a night rally," the source told Ward.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/06/chris-christie-mitt-romney_n_2082634.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

fitty_three
fitty_three

@sacredh  

Your Christmas happiness is complete.  

Wonder if paulejb is going to show up for his share of abuse.

fitty_three
fitty_three

3.2 million votes, Obama 52 - 48 FLA 36%. Hope...

fitty_three
fitty_three

2.1 million votes ---------- Obama 51 - 48 FLA?!?

inkyick
inkyick

What an honest assessment of this campaign.  I'm 76 years old and I've not seen such a display of hate and disrespect for the leader of our country as we've seen this time.  A junior congressman calling the President a liar while the President is addressing the nation in the State of the Union address.  The Supreme Court Justice shaking his head "no" in response to the President's statement about Citizens United.  The hateful, racial signs displayed at rallies by the Tea Party.  Hate, fear and ignorance have been far too prevelant in this campaign.  The rest of the world is watching is while we tell everyone we live in the greatest country of the world and yet, today, people have had to wait in long lines to excercise their right to vote against deliberate obstacles put there by the "patriots" of the GOP.  Shame on them! 

Sue_N
Sue_N

@outsider2011 I'm waiting for some GOPer to jump on Christie's absolute last nerve and set the man off on an on-camera, F-bomb-laden tirade.

skill3d
skill3d

@MrObvious I think you've nailed in on the head, or hair. It must be some sort of symbiotic organism that attaches itself, and feeds on brain matter; ultimately turning you insane before it attaches to a new life form.

fitty_three
fitty_three

48 to 46 Mourdock, Indy, 4 %

...less disgusting

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

@Sue_N @outsider2011 It would be worth buying a tix to.  Gotta say that I would consider voting for Christie in 2016 if he ran and didn't pull a "Guilliani" on us (morph from heroic character to crazy crank)