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Ohio Secretary of State Debate at the City Club

On Tuesday, October 28th, we went to the City Club for a debate between two out of the three candidates running for Ohio Secretary of State. The two who participated were Ohio State Senator Nina Turner (Democrat) and Mr. Kevin J. Knedler who is the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Libertarian Party of Ohio. The third candidate is the current Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (Republican) who declined to participate. According to City Club CEO Dan Moulthrop, part of the reason of Mr. Husted's declination was that he was afraid that the debate would turn into "partisan talking points" so Mr. Moulthrop started the proceedings by saying that he personally hoped that this would not be the case. And from our standpoint, it was not. Both Senator Turner and Mr. Knedler focused on the issues confronting the office of the Ohio Secretary of State and avoided personal confrontation. In fact, they seemed to agree on matters that were brought up which was good because it helped the attendees realize the potential of the office.

In terms of what the Ohio Secretary of State actually does, we went to the the website and learned:

"As Ohio’s chief elections officer, the Secretary of State oversees the elections process and appoints the members of boards of elections in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. The Secretary of State supervises the administration of election laws; reviews statewide initiative and referendum petitions; chairs the Ohio Ballot Board, which approves ballot language for statewide issues; canvasses votes for all elective state offices and issues; investigates election fraud and irregularities; trains election officials, and works with counties to train poll workers. The Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office also compiles and maintains election statistics and other election-related records. Statewide candidates’ campaign finance reports are filed with the office, together with the reports for state political action committees (PACs), state political parties and legislative caucus campaign committees."

In addition to the above, he/she is a member of the Ohio Apportionment Board. His/her duties include granting businesses authority to do business in Ohio and documenting secured commercial transactions. He/she also authorizes documents for overseas use; files and maintains historical records; licenses ministers to perform marriages in Ohio; and maintains records of registered notaries. As representatives of an immigration law office, we quietly asked Senator Turner if the Ohio Secretary of State had anything to do with immigration and she replied that it did not.

The questioning was done by Mr. Henry J. Gomez of the "Plain Dealer". Here are some of the things that were said:

***Senator Turner said that she wanted to create more "access to the ballot box" because she regarded it as a "pathway to democracy". If elected she will be a "cheerleader" and "chief" for voter participation because "each year there will be a person or issue on the ballot that will affect your life".

***Mr. Knedler said that he would push for a "culture of inclusion instead of exclusion" with a goal of increasing voter participation. Mr. Knedler went on to say that he had been a libertarian since 2007 and had engaged in courtroom battles over the rights of third parties (i.e. Green and Libertarian) to be on the ballot which should not be as difficult as it currently is in Ohio. Mr. Knedler said that "we need more meeting rooms and not courtrooms".He got a laugh when he made reference to the fact that Halloween is only a few days away when he said that the republicans keep reaching "into their bag of tricks" to come up with ways to block third parties.

***Senator Turner and Mr. Knedler agreed that the Board of Election should be open for voting more often on the weekends and in the evenings prior to election day. Mr. Knedler said "one size does not fit all" in terms of when one is available to vote.

***Mr. Knedler said the office of Ohio Secretary of State should be totally nonpartisan and, if elected, he caught an employee engaging in partisan politics on the job, that employee would be immediately terminated.

***Senator Turner said that, if elected, she would be the "umpire" and wouldn't be partisan either. Instead she would "put the voters in the center at all times".

***Both supported online voter registration for Ohio which is currently being practiced in many other states as well as reforming the redistricting process and agreed that if a board were created to do so, third parties should have their say in the process.

***Both agreed that the ad that Mr. Husted ran against Ms. Turner in which he brings up her past financial problems and her record as a landlord which some say had overtones of sexism and racism was terrible. Mr. Knedler said that "I don't have a dog in this hunt but it was appalling."

***When asked why can't everyone just vote on one day that way they used to, Mr. Knedler said that we are not in the days of "Ozzie and Harriet" anymore, the number of eligible voters is triple what it was back in the 1950's and 1960's. Senator Turner said that many people are working two to three jobs now so they may not be able to make it to the polls on election day. Moreover, a parent should not have to choose between picking up children from day care and voting.

***When asked by one of the high schoolers in attendance about helping young people to vote, Ms. Turner said she favored "preregistration" of 16 and 17 year olds so that they would be all set to vote when they turn 18. She said that the best way to raise awareness is to reach people when they are young. What's more, public policy affects young people too so they should have their say.

***When asked about Mr. Husted's slogan of "easy to vote and hard to cheat", Senator Turner said that one has a greater chance of being struck by lightning than being impersonated at the ballot box. Mr. Knedler said that the chances of voter fraud were minimum and that he was much more concerned about the chances of a miscount due to electronic voting machines.

***If elected, both Senator Turner and Mr. Knedler said that they would strive to make things easier for businesses to do the required paperwork. Senator Turner said there their are 119 forms and they all should be available on line. She would also have "non-traditional" hours in that division because she realizes that people starting their own businesses are often working another job. Mr. Knedler said that he would cut down on the business form "duplications" and push for more training for more training and webinars to help small businesspeople.

This program was not as well attended as many other City Club events but we still got to meet some good people like Senator Turner's father, Mr. Taalib A. Ilaahee.

We also met Mr. Alassane Fall, a young man who immigrated to the United States from Senegal in 2001. He obtained his degree in International Studies from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas in 2004 and loves Lawrence more than anyplace else because "it is a very fine city...very international." He is not a U.S. citizen but a permanent resident and is here in Ohio working for Senator Turner's campaign.

During the course of the debate, Mr. Knedler said that his mother immigrated to the United States from Great Britain. We talked to him a little about this afterwards and we learned that his parents met when his father was a U.S. serviceman stationed in Great Britain after WWII. His mother immigrated to the United States in 1954 when she was eight months pregnant and Mr. Knedler was born in the U.S. one month later. She became a U.S. citizen in the 1960's but always remembered the blitz (i.e. the air raids) even though she was only 12 years old at the time. Mr. Knedler's literature states that "his advocacy for voting rights and freedom was also impacted by his mother, an immigrant from England, who frequently spoke to him about the evils of a dictatorial society and the horror of the blitz in WWII."

Prior to the debate, Mr. Moulthrop said that on this day the City Club is 102 years old. We feel that the program today was a very appropriate birthday celebration. As the debate concluded, Mr. Moulthrop smiled and said, "we look forward to seeing you at the ballot box as soon as it's legal!"

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