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Published: Friday, 10/9/2009

Low point for high court

JON Husted was correct when he said politics directed the fight over whether he qualifies to vote in the district he represents in the state Senate. But he should have looked in the mirror and to his Republican friends on Ohio's Supreme Court before assessing partisan blame.

Mr. Husted would like people to believe that the controversy over where he lives has been nothing but "a political witch hunt conducted by [Secretary of State] Jennifer Brunner." That is false. Questions about his residency have dogged the former Ohio House speaker for years, and the specific complaints that led to this investigation were lodged with the Montgomery County Board of Elections by ProgressOhio.org, a liberal advocacy group, and, tellingly, Regine Elliott, a Republican voter in Kettering, where Mr. Husted claims to reside.

Clearly, politics was involved in the county board's inability to resolve the issue. The four-member board voted twice, and each time the two GOP members sided with Mr. Husted while the two Democrats were opposed.

Far from jumping at the chance to score political points, Ms. Brunner, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, declined to rule after the first tie vote, sending the matter back to the local board.

Only after the second deadlocked vote did she act, and her subsequent ruling that Mr. Husted did not qualify to vote in Montgomery County displayed close attention to the law.

There has never been any doubt that the senator spends almost no time in the Kettering house he calls home for voting purposes. Equally sure was the prospect that the seven Republicans justices on Ohio's high court would find a way to back Mr. Husted's claim. In fact, they found two.

First, they said, the local election board didn't follow proper procedure for canceling Mr. Husted's voter registration. True or not, using a procedural technicality to skirt the main issue was a weasel's way out.

Second, they argued Ms. Brunner gave too much weight to where Mr. Husted really lives. Instead, the deciding factor was not where he slept every night (Upper Arlington) but his stated intention, eventually, at some unknown date, to live in Kettering. This was a low point for the high court.

Since the ruling, Republicans have painted Ms. Brunner as a "highly partisan" official who "abused her authority," while claiming that they would "return fairness and integrity to the secretary of state's office" with Mr. Husted as the 2010 GOP candidate.

How did Ms. Brunner respond? With the remarkably nonpolitical comment that "Whether it's a decision by a Democratic secretary of state or an all-Republican Supreme Court, someone will question the motivation behind such a decision."

Mr. Husted would be well advised to clean up his own house - if he remembers where it is - before casting aspersions on others.



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