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Ohio creates elections integrity office while voter fraud is already ‘exceedingly rare’

FALL 2021 VOTING 4
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
A voter casts a ballot in a church in Gahanna on November 2, 2021.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose is consolidating the work of various staff members into one “public integrity division” in the hopes of creating a more efficient investigation process into elections violations.

The announcement comes even though LaRose and other Ohio Secretaries of State of both parties have acknowledged that voter fraud is extremely rare.

A statement from the Secretary of State’s office said the division will be a collection of its current investigative work, such as the review of campaign finance reporting, voting system certification, voter registration integrity. It would also include the people who scrutinize documents for new businesses.

“Being able to put all of these things under one roof is going to make it more efficient so that the same group of investigators can work on both of these and really have sort of a singularity of purpose and focus,” LaRose said.

The division will eventually hire one or two, full-time investigators, after the 2022 election. LaRose's office said that will be funded by their existing budget.

In February, after completing its review of the 2020 election in Ohio, LaRose’s office referred just 62 cases of potential fraud to investigators.

Of those cases, 27 involve non-U.S. citizens who allegedly cast a ballot in the 2020 General Election. That’s 27 potential cases of voter fraud out of more than 5.9 million votes cast, or 0.0005%.

LaRose said the public integrity division is still important even though voter fraud is “exceedingly rare.”

He said, “The way that you keep crime rare is by making sure that it's efficiently and thoroughly investigated, and that when people violate the law, they face consequences for it.”

LaRose is running for re-election against Democratic candidate Chelsea Clark and independent candidate Terpsehore Maras, a podcaster who supports former president Donald Trump and has made the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.

LaRose has been criticized for the new division being announced so close to the election.

Matt Keyes, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party, said LaRose is playing politics with the creation of the new division and noted that — because voter fraud is so rare — the division is a waste of money.

“Voter fraud is rare, not only in Ohio, but across the country. Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud. So, it's not like Frank LaRose is doing something special or his vigilance is keeping voter fraud rare. It's just not a problem in Ohio or across the country,” said Keyes.

LaRose has been endorsed by Trump, who has continued to support the “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. Keyes also criticized LaRose for campaigning with other Ohio Republican candidates that purport the false allegation that the election was “stolen.”

“So, when you have elected officials in positions of authority spreading election lies, that's going to trickle down to the voters. And ultimately, I hold politicians like Frank LaRose responsible for that,” said Keyes.

LaRose said he has been critical of any leader who questions the results of an election without proof.

“I have been clear that it is not responsible when Republicans or Democrats claim that an election was fraudulent and don't have the facts,” said LaRose.

The public integrity division will launch on October 10, one day before the deadline to register to vote in Ohio, October 11. New investigators would be hired after the 2022 election.

Contact Andy at achow@statehousenews.org.
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