State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde wants to be Ohio’s next secretary of state because she believes we deserve better.

“No matter where they live, whether it’s in a big city or a small town, black or white, young or old, we need to be working hard for the people of Ohio,” Clyde said in an interview with Plunderbund last month. “Unfortunately, our state leaders have an outdated way of doing things, a lack of transparency, and the same old stale ideas and misplaced priorities that favor those who are already doing just fine.”

In Ohio, the 2018 Election will be a make or break year for Ohio Democrats. After eight years of Republican control over the statehouse, the judiciary, and all five statewide elected offices, next year represents an opportunity to take Ohio back from the brink and start doing right again by everyday people.

One of the first ways to help do that is make sure that each election cycle every eligible voter has the opportunity to cast his or her ballot in open, transparent, accountable elections, free from the long lines, hassles, and roadblocks Republicans often put up to make voting more difficult.

Clyde has an extensive background advocating for fair elections and voting rights, working on these issues for over a decade.

She grew up in Garrettsville, a small, northeast Ohio town full of hard working people. That is where she said she learned just how special it is to grow up in this country where everyone has the right to vote and everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard.

Clyde earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Wesleyan University in Connecticut and her JD from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, graduating in 2008 as a Public Service Fellow with the Dean’s Highest Honors.

While in law school, she was an editor of the law review, president of the Public Interest Law Foundation, and a student researcher and analyst at OSU’s Election Law Center. She also served as a law clerk for the Ohio Secretary of State and the Ohio Senate and earned a summer fellowship at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University for the study of election law.

During the 2008 Presidential election, Clyde served as an election official with the Franklin County Board of Elections, overseeing the set-up and operation of the Franklin County early voting center. She then became Deputy Legal Counsel to the Speaker of the Ohio House – Armond Budish at the time – where she worked on legal issues ranging from access to the courts to voting rights. She is a noted expert in election law and has spoken on election law issues at the Ohio State, Capital University, Stanford and Harvard Law Schools.

“I’ve really fought hard for fair elections, transparency, accountability, and really making sure that everyone has access to the vote,” she said, noting the importance of making sure the system isn’t working against certain groups to prevent them from accessing the polls.

Clyde pointed to what she called an unfortunate history in Ohio with regard to fair and open elections.

“Under this current GOP administration, we have been the No. 1 state in purging voters from the rolls. We have had constant battles to keep access to early voting and to fight long lines in our state,” she said. “Also, a problem Ohio has that I’d like to fix is that we are the third worst state in the country for throwing out people’s votes once they’ve been cast.”

That includes voters who have been wrongfully purged, ballots cast in the wrong location after voters were directed there by a well-meaning but incorrect poll-worker, or voters who make minor errors on their paperwork, she said.

She pointed out that current Secretary of State Jon Husted has fought all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court to be able to purge registered voters from the rolls.

“That was not how the bipartisan National Voter Registration Act was intended,” she said. “The whole purpose was to get people registered and encourage participation, and our secretary of state is using it as a tool to take people’s access away and deregister them.”

Just because a voter doesn’t vote in every election is no excuse to remove them from registration, Clyde said.

“The current administration has been focused on little ways to trick and trap voters to get their ballots thrown out, or confuse them about when early voting starts and what time it’s available, and canceling their voter registration in the case of purging,” she said. “We should be focused on increasing voter turnout, making sure the long lines that we’ve seen at our early voting center in urban counties aren’t so long, and trying to register more people not fewer people.”

Ohio has lower voter participation than other battleground states and that’s not something to be proud of, Clyde said. In 2016, turnout continued to decline from a high mark in 2008 down to the level of participation in 2000, she noted.

“Ohio should be one of the leaders in the country in turning out voters, especially given our importance in presidential elections,” she said.

Clyde said she’d like to look into automatic voter registration as well as modernization of Ohio’s systems and voting infrastructure. She said the state needs to stop violating federal law in its purging of voters from the rolls. And she said that Ohio needs to look at ways to make early voting more accessible.

The 2018 Election will play a major role in determining who will draw the redistricting lines after the 2020 U.S. Census. The Ohio secretary of state is one of three statewide officeholders who sit on the Ohio Apportionment Board along with the governor and state auditor.

Clyde said she is eager to play a role in creating fair districts, which she said is something for which she’s advocated for many years.

“I will continue campaigning on that issue and talking about the detrimental effect that gerrymandering has had on Ohio’s representation in Columbus and Washington,” she said. “We need reform. It’s important. As secretary of state, I would be a strong advocate for fair districts.”