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Kasich denies cutting voting access was partisan move

The Ohio governor told MSNBC's Chris Matthews he was just following the will of his state's election officials, and he said Citizens United was bad for the U.S.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich denied he acted out of partisanship when he signed a bill that reduced access to voting in the crucial swing state.

Pressed by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Kasich, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, said he backed the controversial 2014 bill, which eliminated the week in which Ohioans could register and vote on the same day, because local election officials supported it as a way to simplify the voting process.

“Whenever people who run this voting system say we need to have more order, that's fine,” said Kasich, who has sought to portray himself as a more inclusive type of Republican. “Then I have to listen to them.”

In other highlights from the interview with MSNBC, Kasich suggested he couldn’t see Donald Trump as president, and called the debates “the dumbest way to pick a president.” Kasich also said he thought the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling was bad for the country. And he joined most of his party in claiming that, even though President Obama has nearly a year left in office, it should be left to the next president to nominate a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday.

RELATED: Kasich on next Supreme Court choice: Let the people have a say

But it was the back and forth with Matthews on voting that produced perhaps the liveliest exchange. The week of same-day registration that Kasich and Ohio Republicans eliminated is known in Ohio as "Golden Week." In 2012, at least 90,000 voters — disproportionately minorities — took advantage of it, according to court documents filed by voting rights groups, who sued to overturn the law and other early voting cuts. A legal settlement reversed some of the cuts, but did not restore Golden Week.

Kasich said he signed the bill because "election officials said we've got to tighten things up a little bit." 

It's true that an association of county election administrators supported the move, saying accepting new registrations while voting was ongoing created logistical difficulties in some counties. But voting rights advocates note that the group is skewed toward low-population rural counties, which tend to have less need than urban counties for early voting. Administrators in the state's largest counties opposed the law.

"No, I don't think that letting a handful of billionaires determine who's going to be president is good for the country."'

"Isn't that a partisan move to reduce the number of days you can actually vote?" Matthews asked. 

“You know, Chris, I do not operate on that basis,” Kasich replied, pointing to his rejection last year of a bid by GOP lawmakers to make it harder for students to cast a ballot.

And Kasich argued that even after the cuts, Ohio’s voting access still compares favorably with that of most states.

“I also think 28 days is great, and I do not know why you are picking on Ohio,” he said. “Why don't you go pick on New York?” New York is one of 13 states that does not offer early voting.

Despite a second-place showing in New Hampshire, Kasich is near the bottom of most national GOP polls. But asked by Matthews whether he could imagine Trump, considered a front-runner, in the White House, Kasich replied: “It’s kind of hard for me to believe.”

Kasich suggested that Republican voters would reject the flamboyant businessman as the field winnows — getting in a drive-by shot at the debate process, too.

“What I think is going to happen is, little by little, the debate stage shrinks,” Kasich said. “And it’s not just the debate stage — that’s the dumbest way to pick a president. We’ve got a debate: 'Okay, tell me the history of the world, go, you’ve got 30 seconds'. You know what I mean? It’s ridiculous. But I think the ground game, the town halls, raising money, having a positive message — I just believe it’s going to work.”

Asked whether the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, which vastly expanded the ability of corporations and the wealthy to spend money on politics, was good for the country, Kasich replied: "No.  No, I don't think that letting a handful of billionaires determine who's going to be president is good for the country."

Though Kasich said Sunday that if he were currently president, he would make a nomination to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court, he insisted to Matthews that Obama shouldn’t do so.

“Obama as a president is so polarized to Congress that we know there's no likelihood that this is going to happen, that anybody is going to get confirmed,” Kasich said. “If you had a president who had pulled people together and a Congress who had been brought in … you would have a better chance.”

“We're going to have an election and whoever wins is going to … decide what the fundamental makeup of the court is,” Kasich said.