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Secretary Husted Calls on Congress to Clarify Limits on Federal Government’s Role in Elections

COLUMBUS – On a conference call with reporters this morning, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced he will send a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan urging them to take action ahead of the next federal election cycle to clarify in law the restrictions on federal agencies being able to involve themselves in the administration of elections.

“I have seen what can happen when the law isn't clear--federal courts and federal agencies just come in and take over and that's not how it should work in a democracy,” Secretary Husted said.

Secretary Husted was prompted to contact congressional leaders following a conference call last month with U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson. During the call and in subsequent interviews with media, Secretary Johnson indicated that the Administration was considering a review of state elections systems that could result in them being declared “critical infrastructure” under the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

“Instead of building voter confidence, I can think of few actions that would undermine confidence in elections more than a federal intervention of this magnitude,” Secretary Husted wrote.

While federal officials have since backed off of this plan, the ambiguity in the law remains and Secretary Husted believes swift legislative action is necessary to ensure the law clearly preserves the states’ ability to administer elections as provided for in the U.S. Constitution.  Without such action, future administrations could feel empowered to take similar actions that would lead to an unprecedented takeover of state elections and voting systems.

“I am not suggesting that Secretary Johnson or DHS has anything other than honorable intentions and a sincere desire to ensure our nation’s elections are secure,” Secretary Husted wrote. “But one day, this federal power could be used for far less honorable purposes or without authorization from state elections officials.”

As Secretary Husted also noted in the letter, there is a role for the federal government to play in working with states to ensure our elections are secure. In fact, the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office has been working with both state and federal agencies to prepare for the upcoming November 8th Presidential Election.

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