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Conversations with the Candidates: Secretary of State Jon Husted and Nina Turner

Photo: Ohio Senate, Ohio Secretary of State's office
Photo: Ohio Senate, Ohio Secretary of State's office

Republican incumbent Jon Husted and his Democratic challenger, State Sen. Nina Turner, seem to share similar thoughts about certain aspects about the office they both seek -- about voter fraud and accessibility:

"It's easy to vote and hard to cheat in Ohio," Husted said.

"Voting should be simple. It should be accessible. And it should be secure," Turner said.

And on the redrawing of district lines for state and federal lawmakers:

"It causes the gridlock that we have in the Congress and it causes the difficulties and the challenges that we have on the state legislature when people only have to play to the extremes and they don't necessarily have to play in the middle," Turner said.

"The way we draw legislative and Congressional districts, frankly, in Ohio and across America, is the fractured foundation on which our legislative branch of government is based," Husted said. "It leads to dysfunction, particularly in Washington."

And they agree that there's no need for a strict voter photo ID law.

But the candidates differ wildly and reflect their parties' stances on other issues, such as early voting. Husted supports recently passed laws shortening the early voting period, cutting all but one weekend of voting and eliminating the so-called golden week, when voters could register and cast ballots on the same day. A federal judge has thrown out those changes, and rejected Husted's proposed uniform hours for all county boards of elections.

"That's not equal protection," Husted said. "That's not treating voters fairly and equally. It has the potential to create a very unfair playing field, something that we tried to get away from. The goal for me is to make sure that all voters vote by the same set of rules in Ohio, during the same hours, during the same days. That's what I'm after."

Husted said he has to appeal that ruling. Turner said Husted has spent $400,000 on legal battles over voting laws, and she said it should stop.

"I don't know why he feels like he has to do that," Turner said. "Over the course since he's been in the office it's very clear that he has done things to not advance opportunities to vote. The federal judge has spoken and he's spoken loudly based on the facts of the case."

Turner supports a Democratic push for a voter's bill of rights in the Ohio Constitution. But Husted said some of the issues are addressed elsewhere in the Constitution, and other specifics of that proposal don't make sense for Ohio.

Republicans have criticized Turner as being too partisan to be the chief elections officer, and Husted said her positions are well-known.

"I've always prided myself, even though I'm a Republican, of trying to make sure that I uphold the Constitution, uphold the law," Husted said. "Party affiliation comes last, not first. I think that's the difference."

Turner freely admitted she's strongly pro-choice and that she campaigned against collective bargaining law changes, but said her campaign for Secretary of State hasn't been overly political.

"I'm not standing here saying, Karen, I want to expand and protect that right for Democrats," Turner said. "I'm saying I want to expand and protect that right no matter how people lean, whether they're a little red, a little blue, a little country, a little rock and roll, a little R&B. I want people to be able to vote."

Husted also touts helping a record number of new businesses file paperwork with the Secretary of State's office and website. Turner says she wants more non-traditional hours for the office to reach entrepreneurs who have regular weekday jobs while they launch their businesses.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.