State Rep. Kathleen Clyde should be Ohio's next secretary of state.
Of the three candidates in the race to replace term-limited Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican now running for lieutenant governor, we believe Clyde,
D-Kent, is best suited to make sure Ohioans have free and fair elections.
Clyde faces two competitors: state Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, and Libertarian Dustin Nanna, a home health care worker from Delaware, Ohio. Nanna is young (he's just 24), inexperienced and lacks the qualifications for this demanding job.
LaRose is a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who has spent the past eight years in the state Senate, where he told us he has focused on business and election matters. He was one of the Republicans who worked to come up with the redistricting reforms that we hope will prevent a repeat of the extreme partisan gerrymandering Republicans engaged in following the 2010 census.
The secretary of state will be deeply involved in redistricting following the 2020 census.
Clyde has served four terms in the General Assembly, where she has been the top Democrat dealing with election issues.
There's a reason she did so. She studied election law at Ohio State University's law school and clerked at the Ohio Secretary of State's Office back when Democrat Jennifer Brunner held its top job. After Clyde graduated, she went to work in Franklin County at an early voting center in 2008. She has served on the Ohio Ballot Board and worked as a lawyer in the Statehouse.
"I stand for fair, secure, accessible elections," Clyde told us. "It's time to take the partisanship out of that office."
We agree. Husted hasn't been as bad as some Republican election officials in other states. He has conceded that voter fraud isn't the plague on society that some Republicans claim it to be, but he also fully supported purging inactive voters from the rolls, a process upheld 5-4 by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.
Clyde said she would put a stop to that policy, which we have condemned.
The purges deprive otherwise eligible voters of their right to vote simply because they haven't cast a ballot in a few years. Lorain County Board of Elections Director Paul Adams has told us that the last time such a purge took place, in 2015, 5,604 voters were taken off the county's rolls.
The goal should be more people on the voter rolls, even if they don't exercise that right, not fewer.
Although LaRose has demonstrated bipartisanship and a commitment to protecting voters, we are convinced Clyde would fight harder to protect voter rights over the next four years, especially in the runup to the 2020 presidential election.
Take the purging process. Clyde said she'd still work to make sure the voters who have moved or died are removed from the rolls, but she wouldn't seek automatically to remove someone simply for failing to exercise his right to vote.
Although he's appeared supportive of the purges in the past, LaRose told us he would reform the process perhaps by extending the time voters can remain inactive or sending them more notices.
Both said they would seek to expand voter registration and access, although Clyde was more committed to providing eligible Ohio residents automatic voter registration and allowing voters to cast ballots on the same day they registered.
Clyde also told us that if elected she would work to beef up cyber security in elections (Ohio was one of the states that fended off Russian hacking attempts in 2016).
We are also concerned about the lack of judgment LaRose demonstrated last year when President Donald Trump announced his Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. LaRose backed the move.
LaRose told us that previous presidents have had similar election reviews, and, when Trump announced his, he thought, "What harm can come from that?"
The problem was that the whole enterprise lacked integrity from the beginning, conceived as it was in the paranoid reaches of Trump's mind that demanded some explanation for his losing the popular vote in 2016 to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
So Trump concocted a false narrative and claimed, without evidence, that more than 3 million undocumented immigrants voted in the election. LaRose should have recognized the commission for what it was: a partisan sham designed to foster Republican efforts to suppress the vote across the country. Thankfully, it collapsed before it could do serious damage.
We don't believe that LaRose would be overly partisan in the office, but there's no reason for voters to take a chance on him when a more qualified candidate is on the ballot and has proven her dedication to protecting the sanctity of the vote.
Clyde is, as she put it, "the right woman for the job," and voters should cast their ballots for her. Elect Clyde secretary of state