Ohio secretary of state defends election decisions

As the eyes of the nation look at Ohio, the state's chief elections official is defending some of his decisions, which have been met with criticism. One of the moves Jon Husted made was to send all 7 million registered voters in the state an application for an absentee ballot instead of waiting for those who wanted one to ask.

The letter sent on August 31 said, "Most voters will choose to cast their ballots in the way Ohioans have done it for more than 200 years - visiting their local polling place on Election Day. As a registered voter, you also have the opportunity to vote through the mail from the privacy of your own home."

Some of those who received those letters said they thought they were an attempt to discourage early voting in the state. However, the spokesman for the secretary of state, Matthew McClellan, denied that was the motivation, saying his office "worked hard to make voting uniform," give all residents the same opportunity and "same level of access."

One problem the state elections officials may now encounter is that if some of those who requested the absentee ballots try to vote on Tuesday they will be given a provisional ballot, one that will later need to be certified for its authenticity.

As of Monday evening, 1.195 million of the 1.3 million absentee ballots that had been requested had been returned.

"We believe that the vast majority of those have been sent in. We have a small number that will not arrive by election night, but we believe that it won't be a huge number and only if the race is razor thin close will that come into play," Husted told CNN's "Erin Burnett Outfront" on Monday night.

Husted predicted around 200,000 provisional ballots will be cast on Election Day. Voters get those ballots for various reasons: if they requested an absentee ballot but then try to vote on Election Day, if they do not bring an ID, if someone did not update his or her address, or if someone goes to the wrong precinct. Four years ago, just more than 200,000 people voted using provisional ballots in Ohio. By state law they cannot be counted until 10 days after the election.

Another controversy has been Husted's directive that voters - not poll workers -- fill out some of the information printed on the back of the provisional ballot when it is filed, including the last four digits of the voter's Social Security number and the identification that was provided.

"The bottom line is that (Husted) designed a form that violates Ohio law by improperly shifting to voters the poll workers' information-recording responsibilities regarding ID to voters and then he wants to trash votes where there is a problem," Cleveland attorney Subodh Chandra, who filed a legal challenge to Husted's decision, told The Columbus Dispatch.

Husted said he was following the law. "If I was a voter, I would want to have control of casting my ballot, making sure the information is correct. I wouldn't want that taken out of my hand and given to a poll worker," Husted told CNN's Erin Burnett. There is a court hearing scheduled later this week on the issue.

Husted, a Republican, had previously come under fire for trying to limit the duration of early voting in the state. Federal courts intervened, directing the state to offer more days than the state had planned.

"I made sure that the rules were the same in all 88 counties because in the past counties would vote by different sets of rules. I made them uniform," he said. "People should be reassured that what I'm going to is administer the law of the state of Ohio and run the elections according to that law."

Officials from the Obama and Romney campaigns said they would be ready to file legal challenges if need be in Ohio and elsewhere.

-- CNN Political Reporter Shannon Travis contributed to this report


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