The secretary of state serves as Ohio’s chief elections officer. The job has gained a higher profile with the state as a perennial battleground and the fallout from the controversial 2000 presidential election, both Democrats and Republicans since jockeying for advantage. In this election year, Ohioans are fortunate to have two highly qualified candidates, state Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Kent Democrat, and state Sen. Frank LaRose, a Hudson Republican. Each is seeking statewide office for the first time. Each has the skills to perform well in the office.
Worth keeping in mind is the way the elections system is structured, a largely local operation, Democrats and Republicans equally represented, each party providing a check on the other.
For 14 of the past 18 years, Republicans have occupied the secretary of state’s office, including the past eight years under Jon Husted. (Go back to 1990, and it’s 24 of 28 years.) In the spirit of how the office is set up, it’s time to add a measure of balance, or for a Democrat to serve as secretary of state.
We recommend the election of Kathleen Clyde on Nov. 6. Click here for more Beacon Journal/Ohio.com endorsements.
This isn’t just about her party. Clyde is well prepared for the position. An attorney, she has been a leading Democratic expert and voice at the Statehouse on elections matters the past eight years, among other things, proposing legislation and adding in an informed and thoughtful way to the debate. She has served on the Ballot Board. Her experience goes back to working as a law clerk in the office and organizing the early vote center in Franklin County in 2008.
Clyde has good ideas for improving the elections process. She would end the excessive “purging” of voters, too many erased from the rolls for just choosing not to vote. She wants the state to adopt an automated voter registration system (with a choice to opt-out), something achieved with success elsewhere. She has unveiled an ambitious, and warranted, cybersecurity plan, with heightened protection through “voter-marked, voter-verified” paper ballots.
One criticism of Clyde is that she is too much the partisan. She has been a strong advocate for policy positions. At the same time, she has represented one of the more competitive districts in the House. She gets the bipartisan essence and larger responsibilities of the secretary of state. She wants a more fair, secure and accessible elections system for Ohio.
Frank LaRose wants the same. Again, he would make a good secretary of state. He has made his mark in the legislature the past eight years, in part, through persistent support for repairing the way the state redraws legislative and congressional district lines. He reached across the aisle. He played a big role in making reform happen.
The 10-year U.S. Army veteran with the 101st Airborne and U.S. Special Forces as a Green Beret has taken a leading role in legislating improvements in the elections system, including online voter registration. He has ideas for further advances, largely along the lines of Clyde, though taking smaller steps as a rule. For instance, LaRose appears inclined to keep the process for managing the voter rolls yet give non-voters more time before they face removal.
Another appealing aspect of the LaRose candidacy has been his commitment to a more civil dialogue. He has been an abiding example of something much needed. Why doesn’t all that add up to an edge for LaRose? Kathleen Clyde is equally strong as a candidate. Finally, this bipartisan election system would benefit from bipartisan leadership at the top. It’s time for a Democrat to have a turn leading this much-watched office.