OUR VIEW: Ohio voters lose in skirmishes over ballots; It's time for an end to pointless partisan battles over elections

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The battle over the ballots appears to have subsided -- at least for now -- at the Statehouse, with Republicans backing off on a threat to punish local governments that mailed out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters.

We doubt that the truce will last, however, because election issues have become a political lightning rod in Columbus, fueling partisan bickering over an issue that really shouldn't be an issue. Maybe we're naive, but it seems like it ought to be in everyone's interest in a democracy to make it easier to vote.

The latest skirmish centered on a Republican move to thwart counties that acted independently to mail absentee ballot applications by cutting 10 percent of their local government funding.

The measure apparently was aimed at Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, who had announced plans to send absentee ballot forms to all voters in his county in defiance of a recently enacted election law that gives the secretary of state the exclusive authority to do that.

FitzGerald is a Democrat who is his party's endorsed choice for governor. Cuyahoga County is a political stronghold for Democrats, and a strong voter turnout there is vital for his chances of unseating Gov. John Kasich.

Secretary of State Jon Husted is a Republican. He has announced plans to send absentee ballot applications to every Ohio voter this fall.

Husted and Kasich both weighed in on the absentee ballot measure, which was included in the mid-biennium budget under discussion by the legislature. Both said the move to penalize counties that mailed out ballot applications was unnecessary.

"I just don't think you use the local government fund -- it's not there to be used like that. I just think it was not a well-conceived idea," Kasich said.

The issue was resolved when State Rep. Ron Amstutz, who heads the House Finance Committee, said the amendment would be pulled because the state auditor already had the authority to issue findings against counties that break election laws.

Before the tempest subsided, however, FitzGerald called for a federal investigation of "voter suppression" and vowed that "Cuyahoga County will not be intimidated when it comes to protecting the right to vote."

Husted, for his part, told The Columbus Dispatch, "I think it's time to stop playing games and resolve the issue like reasonable adults," he said.

All concerned would do well to keep those words in mind. It is, indeed, time to stop tinkering with election rules and regulations. It is time to put the interests of the voters ahead of partisan politics.

We'll say it again, because it bears repeating: Make it easier to vote in Ohio.

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