The midterm elections are just over a month away, and the Ohio secretary of state seat, which is the office that oversees state-wide elections and voter registration, is on the ballot. The results of this election will be pivotal in determining the 2020 Congressional redistricting of Ohio.

Democratic State Rep. Kathleen Clyde will run against Republican State Sen. Frank LaRose in the critical Nov. 6 election that will decide the position fifth in the line of succession for governor.

The secretary of state election will also determine who serves on the commission responsible for the redistricting of new congressional and state lines that occurs every 10 years. In May, an amendment was approved by voters to change the requirements to pass congressional redistricting maps and to change the standards used in redistricting Ohio.

Kathleen Clyde, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State. Courtesy of Ohio House of Representatives

“Voters have approved constitutional amendment that provides for bipartisan method for drawing the district lines,” said Bob Taft, former Ohio governor and secretary of state. “It will affect how congressional districts are drawn and I would expect if it works as intended, there will be more competitive districts in Ohio.”

Clyde is in her fourth term representing Ohio’s 75th District and ran unopposed in the Democratic primary in May. On Sunday, Clyde spoke as a featured guest at a fundraiser celebration for Democratic female candidates in Ohio.

Clyde noted the importance of accessibility to voting for students in an interview with The Lantern before her speech.

“Students can really make a difference in our state, in our country by voting,” Clyde said. “And so them using their voices is critical for us and something that we should encourage as much as we can.”

LaRose, currently on his second term representing Ohio’s 27th District, ran unopposed in his party’s primary in May.
LaRose has touted his bipartisan record in his campaign to capture the coveted seat.

“When you vote for the person that’s going to be in charge of Ohio’s elections, it’s important that you have someone with a track record of actually working across the aisle,” LaRose said in an interview with The Lantern Friday.

LaRose is currently pushing a bill in Ohio that would allow people to register for absentee ballots online. In 2016, he sponsored the successful bill that allowed Ohioans to register to vote online.

“It wasn’t popular with my own party when I first introduced it, to be very candid, but we stayed the course,” LaRose said. “This is kind of a pattern for me because in a lot of ways I’ve been willing to step out on things that I think were right, even when it’s not popular with my party.”

Noting LaRose’s nonpartisan work across the aisle, the Columbus Dispatch officially endorsed him in an editorial for his willingness to “oppose party orthodoxy for the good of Ohio voters.”

Ohio is currently under Republican control, with the GOP controlling the governorship and holding majorities in both the state Senate and House.

Frank LaRose, Republican candidate for  Ohio Secretary of State. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio Senate

Clyde cited actions taken by the Republican party to make it more difficult for students to vote. According to a Pew Research Center study, 58 percent of young adults aged 18 to 25 either identify as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic party.

“There have been a number of attempts made by the current party in power to make it harder for college students to vote,” Clyde said. “If your vote wasn’t valuable, they wouldn’t be going after it.”

Ohio Republican leaders, headed by efforts of current Secretary of State Jon Husted, faced scrutiny in the 2016 election for purging hundreds of thousands of voter rolls due to inactivity in voting. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer in favor of Husted and upheld states’ rights to suppress voter rolls.

A Reuters study found that at least 144,000 people were removed from the voting rolls in recent years in Ohio’s three largest counties — Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Franklin — which are home to Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, respectively.

“I reject that notion that [voter roll purging] has sort of become a politicized version of what has been the procedure in Ohio for over 20 years,” LaRose said. “You also have the responsibility of maintaining accurate lists and that goes back as long as there’s been a secretary of state.”

Ohio’s current process allows voters to be removed from the voter roll if they have not participated in an election in the past six years and failed to respond to a notice.

“My own opinion as a former secretary of state is that what Ohio does is a reasonable approach to keeping your voter rolls accurate and preventing voter fraud,” Taft said.

Clyde remains firm in her passion of getting young people to vote, saying that she wants to help register students to vote and “break down the barriers to voting that exist for students.”

The polls open at 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 6 and close at 7:30 p.m. or until the last person in line gets to vote, while early voting starts on Oct. 10. For more information on where to vote, how to register and what to bring, visit the secretary of state website here.