Senate Minority Leader Eric H. Kearney and House Minority Leader Armond Budish sent the following letter to Secretary of State Jon Husted today urging him to remain neutral on the Voters First redistricting reform ballot issue while his office verifies the organization’s petitions.
July 31, 2012
The Honorable Jon Husted
Ohio Secretary of State
180 E. Broad St., 16th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
We are writing to express our deep concern about comments you made regarding the Voters First initiative petition, which is currently under review by the Secretary of State’s office for placement on the November ballot. In the Plain Dealer (July 1, 2012) and on subsequent occasions you stated publicly that you do not believe it is the solution for Ohio’s deeply flawed process for drawing congressional and legislative districts.
As the statewide officer charged with ensuring our elections are fair and unbiased, we believe it is highly inappropriate and irresponsible for you to comment on the merits of this, or any initiative or referendum, while your office is verifying signatures. We believe your neutrality is absolutely necessary given the fact you just participated in the redistricting process that would be replaced by this ballot issue. If the certification of the petition is denied, your comments will have created the appearance of impropriety and self-interest in the performance of your duties. This is a charge all public servants should do their best to avoid.
In addition to placing in doubt the objectivity of your office during the petition verification process, we believe the best course for our chief elections officer is to not endorse any position on a ballot issue. When Ken Blackwell was Secretary of State and served simultaneously as the Bush re-election campaign chairperson, it created the appearance of unfairness from our chief elections officer. Just as poll workers cannot campaign at the polling place, we do not feel it is in the best interest of Ohioans for their chief elections officer to campaign for or against a ballot issue.
We urge you to refrain from making further comments against Voters First until a review of the petitions is completed. We would welcome your future neutrality on ballot issues after they are set for the ballot and until voters have their say.
Eric H. Kearney
Minority Leader, Ohio Senate
9th Senate District
Minority Leader, Ohio House of Representative
8th House District