By Jeremy P. Kelley Staff Writer
DAYTON — Six months before a presidential election that will put the Ohio vote in the spotlight, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said Monday he’s trying to set up the best electoral process possible, and “eliminate excuses in advance.”
“If someone from one of the political parties complains about some element of the process, I’m going to ask them, ‘What did you do to help us solve it?’ ” said Husted, a Republican from Kettering. “They’ve had plenty of advance notice.”
Husted said one of his main goals is to recruit the best poll workers that the state can get, and plenty of them. Ohio needs about 40,000 people to staff 9,500 precincts on Nov. 6. Husted’s office has set up a website — PEOinOhio.com — where people can sign up to be precinct elections officials. Volunteers will be reviewed and selected by county boards of election.
“Ohio would benefit most by having more individuals who are engaged and committed to maintaining the integrity of the process, rather than criticizing from afar,” Husted said. “I plead with people who care about the sanctity of the election process to actively help us.”
Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, said Democrats have already raised concerns about early-voting procedures and handling of provisional ballots, but said Husted’s office ruled against them.
Owens pushed for early-voting sites to be open on the final weekend before the election, saying that would help keep lines shorter on Election Day. That was the case in 2008, and Montgomery County alone had about 10,000 people vote that weekend.
But Ohio’s plan currently calls for the monthlong early-voting period to stop on the Friday afternoon before the election, with Husted saying that will give county boards of election time to check early ballots before Election Day.
Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Rob Scott said he’s confident Husted has set up a good process, but he echoed the call for the “best possible” poll workers, saying training of those front-line people is crucial.
“A lot of the issues happen there,” Scott said. “We have this provisional system, but a lot of times the poll workers do not follow the proper procedures. Our people on the front line need to be well-informed, so that every vote is counted, and when there is fraudulent voting, it’s caught and not counted.”
After some debate in the past year, Husted confirmed that the Secretary of State’s office will mail every registered voter in Ohio an absentee ballot request, “essentially creating a voting booth at every kitchen table in Ohio.”
Husted said everyone who is registered by roughly July 4 will get the mailing, which will be sent out around Labor Day.
Husted called on Ohio voters to do their part toward a smooth election by making sure their name and address is accurate and up-to-date with their county board of elections, to know their correct polling place, and to bring proper identification to the polls.
On Nov. 6, voters will choose a president, U.S. senators and representatives, state senators and representatives, county government leaders, Ohio Supreme Court justices and other judges, and some will vote on local tax levies.