Secetary of State Jon Husted, whose office was embroiled in litigation over balloting issues throughout the fall campaign, believes that there's room for improvement in the electoral process in Ohio. He also believes that trying to force through reforms during a lame duck session of the legislature isn't a good idea.
He's right on both counts.
While Ohioans were able to go to the polls on Election Day without any serious problems -- at least none as severe as the lengthy waits that made casting a ballot an ordeal for some in the 2004 presidential election -- issues that surfaced during the run-up to the election must be resolved.
Questions about early voting and provisional ballots ought to be dealt with now, and not left to the federal courts while Ohioans are beginning the voting process. And the secretary of state, as Ohio's chief election officer, will have to refrain from heavy-handed, "one-size-fits-all" solutions.
Pushing through a package of election "reforms" during the upcoming lame duck session is an invitation to more controversy, especially if it appears that the Republican majority is trying to tinker with the rules to tilt the game to its advantage. Voting is too important to be a political football.
We'd suggest that both sides let the smoke clear and work toward resolving election questions, especially those involving early voting, when the new legislature convenes in January.
Husted ought to consider appointing a bi-partisan panel of legislators and other interested constituencies, such as the League of Women Voters, to recommend comprehensive reforms to the legislature. State Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Portage County, who has expertise in election law and a genuine interest in the electoral process, would be a good candidate to serve on such a panel.
A transparent discussion, one that seeks input from a broad range of opinions and puts the electoral process above political gain, is necessary. Efforts to dictate "reform," either through top-down mandates from the secretary of state or partisan strong-arm tactics, only will invite more controversy and more dates before federal judges.
"Things went well in Ohio," Husted said last week, following the election. "That doesn't mean we can't get better."
He's right about that, too. With the next statewide election nearly two years away, now is the time to begin solving the problems that surfaced this time around.