COLUMBUS — State Sen. Jon Husted, R-Kettering, is a resident of Montgomery County and should be allowed to vote there, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009.
The court overturned Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who on Sept. 21 had determined that Husted did not live his Kettering home and ordered the Montgomery County Board of Elections to cancel his voter registration.
In a 7-0 ruling the court said Brunner “erred in concluding that there was clear and convincing evidence that Husted is not a Montgomery County resident.”
Husted accused Brunner of abusing the authority of her office. He said the law is clear and he is a Kettering resident.
Husted frequently stays with his wife and children in her Upper Arlington home outside Columbus due to the demands of his job in the Ohio Legislature. He said Ohio law and the Ohio Constitution allow him to be away from his residence in service to the state.
“Today the Court, by unanimous decision agreed with me,” said Husted, who is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state in 2010. “It was clear from the very beginning that this was a political witch hunt conducted by Jennifer Brunner. She did it because I was looking to succeed her as secretary of state. She tried to damage me politically.”
Husted was elected to the Ohio House in 2000 and became Speaker in 2005. He was elected to the Senate in 2008. Brunner is running for the Democratic nomination to U.S. Senate in 2010.
In a written statement released Tuesday, Brunner said she will follow the “court’s guidance on the matter and advise the state’s boards of elections accordingly.”
The Montgomery County Board of Elections began investigating Husted’s residency after two complaints were filed in October 2008 questioning if he lived where he is registered to vote at 148 Sherbrooke Drive, Kettering.
The elections board twice deadlocked along party lines — with Republicans saying he lived there and Democrats dissenting.
The day after Brunner ruled that Husted did not live at the Kettering home he asked the state’s high court to overrule her.
The court ruled that Brunner did not properly apply the law in ruling that Husted is not a resident. The ruling said she did not give enough weight to his intent to return to the Kettering home when his public service ends.
"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," Brunner said.
Indeed, accusations of partisanship flew Tuesday after the ruling.
“It comes as no surprise that seven Republicans on the Ohio Supreme Court would bail out the former Republican Speaker of the House,” said Ohio Democratic Party Executive Director Doug Kelly.
“Overwhelming evidence, including media investigations and utility records, has demonstrated that Jon Husted does not reside at the Kettering house.”
Husted said Brunner “abused her authority, went outside of the law to harass me. When I am secretary of state I will not allow the office to be used the way Jennifer Brunner has abused it.”
State Republicans also took aim at Brunner, who is running for U.S. Senate.
“Ohioans continue to be ill-served by their highly-partisan chief elections officer, and I look forward to the day when Jon Husted returns fairness and integrity to the secretary of state’s office,” Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine said.
State Rep. Jennifer Garrison, D-Marietta, who also is running for secretary of state, said Husted “may not have violated the letter of the law, but he certainly challenged the spirit of the law” and ultimately voters will be the judge.
Brunner denied being partisan in her ruling, saying said she relied on an appellate case that led an elected official to lose his right to vote in the county where he was registered.
She said in making her ruling she relied on an appellate case involving similar circumstances.
“That this court has overturned the results of that decision will have an impact not for just elected officials but for many other Ohio individuals who have been denied voting rights or prosecuted for attempting to exercise them,” Brunner said. “To the extent that it took this kind of challenge to the law to change it, that is a good thing.”
The court did not address Husted’s contention that Brunner had no right to subpoena additional evidence after the local elections board deadlocked.
The court did rule, however, that the local board did not follow proper procedures for canceling a voter’s registration.
Brunner had ordered the registration be canceled but the board had not yet acted, pending the Ohio Supreme Court decision.