Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted told a gathering of local elected officials and other guests Thursday that Ohio’s voter rolls have been cleaned up, business filings can be accomplished more easily than ever, and the three statewide issues on the November ballot are important to fairness and the protection of Ohioans from constitutional monopolies.
Husted was the guest of the Highland County Board of Elections at a lunch meeting in the county Administration Building attended by a number of local elected officials and other guests. Election board member Kay Ayres introduced Husted, a former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives who noted he is in his 15th year as an elected official in the state.
Husted, serving his second term as secretary of State, said that since assuming the office in 2011 he has made it “easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
“The voting rolls were a mess” when he took over, said Husted, containing more than 400,000 deceased voters, 300,000-plus duplicate names and more than 400 non-citizens registered to vote.
“No one ever checked this stuff before,” said the former Dayton area Republican lawmaker.
In addition to overseeing state elections, Husted’s office is also in charge of business filings in Ohio. Husted said that since taking office, the ability to perform business filings online has expanded, with a 24-hour turnaround. He said since then, state records have been broken each year for new business starts.
Just like in the private sector, government should strive to provide “the best service at the lowest price,” said Husted.
With Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings sitting to his left, Husted said that state Issue 1 is the most important issue on the ballot, “other than the mayor’s race in Hillsboro.” He said the issue, which would change the way state legislative districts are drawn, would bring fairness and competitiveness to state House and Senate races.
“We should be Americans first, Ohioans first,” rather than partisans who gerrymander the districts for political advantage, said Husted. He said changing how districts are drawn will lead to more effective governing.
Issue 2 would prevent anyone from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly for their exclusive financial benefit. The issue was formulated with an eye on Issue 3, which would grant a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for both recreational and medicinal purposes in Ohio. If Issue 2 and Issue 3 both pass, Issue 3 will be negated by the stipulations of Issue 2, supporters of Issue 2 believe.
Husted shares that belief, based on his comments Thursday, and he and Ayres urged yes votes on issues 1 and 2, and a no vote on Issue 3.
Husted said Issue 2 will prevent “wealthy people” from financing constitutional ballot initiatives for their own benefit, and stressed that Issue 3 is not just a law allowing marijuana sales and use in Ohio, it’s a constitutional amendment benefiting just 10 growers around the state.
“That’s not what the Constitution is supposed to be for,” he said, adding that there are even some pro-marijuana groups opposing Issue 3 because of its intent to create a monopoly. He said the Responsible Ohio campaign favoring passage of Issue 3 is running television commercials that are misleading.
He said he believes the issue is currently losing, but the pro-Issue 3 ad campaign could still have an impact. However, he said he was confident that the issue will be “overwhelmingly rejected” if voters get “all the facts.”
Husted is regarded as a possible gubernatorial contender in 2018, and he used part of his time Thursday to address issues such as education and jobs.
Husted, who said he had toured Southern State Community College earlier in the day, said Ohio needs to rethink its traditional approach to education, allowing for more college credits in high school, emphasizing STEM courses – science, technology, engineering and math – and issuing more skilled trade certificates which lead to better jobs.
“It’s not about the colleges, it’s about helping people get educated,” he said.
In addition to Hastings, attendees Thursday included county Commissioner Jeff Duncan, Sheriff Donnie Barrera, county Auditor Bill Fawley, county Engineer Dean Otworth, county Prosecutor Anneka Collins, first assistant county Prosecutor Molly Bolek, county Treasurer Vickie Warnock, county Recorder Chad McConnaughey, former county Clerk of Courts Paulette Donley, along with representatives from the Highland County Chamber of Commerce, Highland County Historical Society and Highland County Farm Bureau, among other guests.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.