Secretary of State Jon Husted has been flitting around the state in search of a safe harbor for his besieged voting "reforms", and he couldn't have found a more hospitable port than Mike Douglas' Sunday column in the Beacon Journal. In a piece that asks teasingly "How hard is it to vote in Ohio?' the BJ editorial page editor solemnly went on and on to cast Husted as the Wizard of Oz in cleaning up an election system that has been victimized by long lines, shfting polling places, shortened voting hours and - I pause - the Zombie cheaters. Douglas concludes that it isn't that hard to vote. Problem solved.
Indeed, that has been Husted's rallying cry as he seeks reelection against a fiery Democratic opponent, Sen. Nina Turner. The secretary prides himself in creating a new culture that makes it "easier to vote and harder to cheat". On Sunday, Douglas oddly bought into the argument that is being scorned by some other newspapers as well as ordinary folks like you and me. (A columnist in the Toledo Blade booed the Husted Hustle (my noun ) in a piece headlined ''Why Ohio's GOP is strangling voters' access to the polls."
On that point, I think I know why. It's the grand design by the Republican deep thinkers that emerged at the start of the Obama era as the party nervously sought ways to resist voting trends that threatened its survival forever. (Years earlier, a Republican county chairman expressed hope that it would rain on Election Day to lower the turnout in certain politically unfriendly urban precincts.)
The Republicans decided the whole idea could be sold as a Boy Scout effort to eliminate wholesale voter fraud. When none surfaced in studies, they turned to other ploys.
Besides piling voter turnout on voter turnout that he compared favorably with Husted's efforts, Douglas also lashed the New York Times - which is really too big to fail - for an editorial that accused the Ohio GOP of rigging the election system to hurt the Democrats. After a couple of Republican officials unwisely said the so-called reforms were intended to help Mitt Romney, I can only respond: Well?
Rather than deal with the numbers, I prefer to look at the nefarious ways that Husted and the hoofbeat Republican legislature have carried out their game plan. The victims of two losses in presidential elections, they have been frantically rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
I am cynical enough to dismiss voter turnouts in past elections as the sole measure of the merit of Husted's handiwork. I prefer to look at the wide pool of the carefully nurtured Republican efforts to close some doors in urban polling places. Shorter voting hours, the elimination (now restored) of Golden Week for same-day registration and voting, Republican attempts to bar universities from issuing residency IDs, and, the measure that would make it quite difficult for a third party to appear on the ballot. It's not a playbook that inspires confidence in the party's moves to purify the vote.
You might want to know, too, that Republican Sen.Frank LaRose from Akron's back yard sponsored the measure to end Golden Week.
The issue has generated a suit by the ACLU, League of Women Voters and NAACP. And not so incidentally, a federal judge in Cincinnati has ordered Husted to restore the early voting hours of the three days leading to the election.
Wherever you land on this, I believe this much is certain: Husted will be a key figure in one of the state's liveliest issues up to Election Day. It has already cut to the quick the folks who will be most deeply affected. You know who they are, even if Husted's side won't tell you.