Top Ohio elections official eyeing system changes

ANN SANNER Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Secretary of State Jon Husted cautioned lawmakers Thursday from moving too quickly to change election laws in the perennial swing state of Ohio, where proposed changes sparked partisan rancor in the Legislature this year and voting rules were the subject of legal disputes before Tuesday's election.

Husted, the state's election chief and a Republican, suggested the issue be set aside during the lame duck session and leaders work on it on a bipartisan basis. He said he was still reviewing how Election Day went and planned to speak to his 88 county boards of elections about any problems or issues they had.

"Things went well in Ohio," Husted said. "That doesn't mean we can't get better."

He said Ohio's voting hours and days should be written into law, along with its rules on provisional ballots.

Also, he said, it made sense to send absentee ballot applications to voters during gubernatorial and presidential election years and lawmakers should put that into law and appropriate funding to mail them.

Husted's office sent absentee ballot applications to roughly 6.9 million voters statewide for the first time this year.

But Husted said he would not be prepared to put forward a comprehensive proposal during the remaining weeks of the legislative session.

Meanwhile, Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus said he's appointing a small working group to check out whether the law needs to be updated. So far, he said, he's asked three Republican lawmakers to come up with recommendations and has not yet spoken with Democrats. He said he couldn't say whether changes would be passed during the lame duck session.

"I've encouraged members to get together and talk about it while everything is fresh in our minds, but where that leads us, I don't know," Niehaus said. "Right now, we're just talking."