The Importance of Jennifer Brunner

Jennifer Brunner, Ohio's Secretary of State, is quickly becoming the nation's most prominent election administrator. Brunner's legal battle with the Ohio Republican Party -- in ...
by | October 17, 2008

Brunner_4 Jennifer Brunner, Ohio's Secretary of State, is quickly becoming the nation's most prominent election administrator. Brunner's legal battle with the Ohio Republican Party -- in which the U.S. Supreme Court sided with her today -- is making national news.

Obviously, the main reason that Republicans are criticizing Brunner (a Democrat) and Democrats are defending her is that both sides want to win Ohio's 20 electoral votes. But, there's another subtext here too: control of state legislative redistricting in 2011.

Ohio has a hybrid redistricting process. The legislature gets to draw congressional lines, but state legislators don't get to change state legislative lines. Instead, that task is left to the five-member Ohio Reapportionment Board.

Who are the members? It includes one representative selected by each of the two major parties in the legislature -- so, one Democrat and one Republican. It includes the governor, who is currently Ted Strickland, a popular Democrat. A lot can happen in two years, but, for now, Strickland seems likely to win reelection. The fourth member is the state auditor, currently Mary Taylor, the only Republican to win statewide in 2006. She'll probably be a favorite in 2010 too. And, finally, it includes the secretary of state

In other words, the Reapportionment Board will probably have two Democrats, two Republicans and whoever occupies the secretary of state's office. Brunner's reelection bid is crucial. She seems likely, if the scuttlebutt is to be believed, to face Jon Husted, the outgoing speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives.

So, Republicans have an extra incentive to portray Brunner as someone who is manipulating the electoral process for partisan ends. Democrats have an extra incentive to depict her as fighting the good fight against dirty tricks designed to disenfranchise voters. That public relations battle could determine who controls Ohio's state legislature for the next decade.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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