Voter registration urged in Marietta visit
With the November general election just more than a month away Ohio Secretary of State John Husted visited Marietta Monday to speak with business and education leaders, encourage voting and also listen to issues close to the hearts of local residents.
“There’s no such thing as an off-year for elections in our office,” he said in an interview with The Marietta Times. “I like to remind people that 112 elections have been decided by one vote… just because there isn’t a president or a governor’s race on the ballot doesn’t mean there aren’t very real state and local issues and races that will impact your quality of life.”
Husted also pointed out that the voting process is even easier than in years past.
“Online voter registration is new this year and if you have moved you can even update your address online,” he explained. “And for our military members and other Ohio citizens living out of state we have already emailed ballots 45 days in advance of the Nov. 7 election.”
Husted said his office has served Ohioans living in all other 49 states, 79 countries and upon seven naval vessels since he entered the office in 2011.
Peggy Byers, deputy director of the Washington County Board of Elections, said local residents still have time to register both online and in person at the office this week before the deadline Oct. 10 for the upcoming election Nov. 7.
“Then our first day of mailing out absentee ballots and that people can vote in the office is Oct. 11,” she said.
She said this year of the 43,000 registered voters in the county, 228 have registered through the secretary’s website and 635 through the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle’s website this year.
When not coordinating voter registration and overseeing elections Husted’s office is also the first stop for starting a new business in the state.
Before 2013 all of the forms needed to start a business–roughly six to seven differing forms based on type of business but a total of 80 kinds of forms available to file at the office– were completed in paper form and mailed to the Ohio Secretary of State.
“Now we’re 100 percent online, and what took four to seven days takes my office about four hours to verify and we were the first to partner with Google Maps to automatically sign up your location with them when you file with us online,” said Husted. “Over the course of seven years I’ve eliminated 40 percent of the people in the bureaucracy and we’ve been able to downsize the office so that we no longer rely on any taxpayer dollars to run the office.”
At the same time, Husted noted, the filing fee for new businesses has gone down from $125 to $99.
“We downsized mostly through attrition and early retirement,” he explained, sharing that the personnel cut “removed 40 percent of the bureaucracy.”
“And when I’m not spending that money on bureaucracy we can put it to better use educating people and fighting this opioid crisis,” he said.
Husted also explained that with the move of the office’s business services call center to the Cleveland Sight Center, he has seen a large reduction in wait times and more efficiency and customer service for the business owners of Ohio.
“We went from an average 10 minutes per call to 11 seconds and everybody who answers our phones are blind and have the call in one ear and the computer in the other,” said Husted. “They do a great job and we’re proud of that partnership that provides jobs and dignity to these folks.”
Husted has also thrown his hat in the ring for the 2018 gubernatorial primary on the Republican side with a platform of providing hope and opportunity to Ohioans.
“Now that I’m running for governor I’d like to bring a new generation of leadership to Ohio,” he said.
Top issues in the governor’s race include job skill development, the ever-present opioid crisis and business development within the state which Husted said are all intertwined.
“There are plenty of aspects to a solution but I think chief among them is that you have to get to people and give them hope of a better future,” he said. “If we were No. 1 in growth for education and job creation then we wouldn’t be No. 1 in the nation for opioid deaths.”
In reference to a lawsuit by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, alleging that five drug companies engaged in fraudulent marketing regarding the risks and benefits of prescription opioids, Husted said the state “can’t wait on a lawsuit to be the solution to the drug problem.”
Instead, he said his focus is twofold on the issue:
“Continuing to drill it in that opioids are dangerous, you can never say that too much,” he explained. “But also push to get people a job skill and help them believe they have a chance at a middle-class lifestyle.”
Husted also stated his opposition to Medicaid expansion, calling the program unsustainable.
“Health care is all about access and cost and just because you have access to medicaid doesn’t mean you will have a doctor who will treat you in a reasonable amount of time,” he said.
Instead of federal management of the program, he said, give the freedom to the state to design a program that works for Ohio.