Secretary of State backs Republican election data bill to erase voters' "trust deficit"
The state’s chief elections officer says the way Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections compiles and reports voting data is out of date and inconsistent. He’s backing a Republican-proposed bill that would be the first revamp of laws related to election data in 60 years.
The Data Analysis Transparency Archive or DATA Act would create standard definitions for election data and a process to transmit that data to a new secretary of state’s office of data analytics and archives, and then publish all that online.
Sponsoring Sen. Teresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) said, "We have 88 boards of elections, but they may have 88 different interpretations of what data history is, for example. So we want to make sure we're standardizing that."
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the bill, now Senate Bill 51, will help county boards share their information more easily.
“What this bill would do is not take away any of their autonomy, but really take away a headache that they have right now of how do they report to us, what are the definitions of it," said LaRose. "What this bill will do is really codify those standard definitions and set up the accounting principles, if you will, for how we maintain election data."
LaRose said he doesn't have a cost estimate on the creation of the office that would handle these duties.
LaRose has said Ohio’s elections are strong but has echoed former president Trump’s unfounded claims about voter fraud in other states. But LaRose said this legislation will create transparency that will overcome voters’ "trust deficit".
"I think that we're all aware that there is a crisis of confidence. That's not hyperbole," LaRose said.
Gavarone added, "I believe that if we're not actively working on ways to improve our elections, then we're moving backwards and we're just asking for trouble. Giving Ohioans access to data we can make readily available is the right thing to do."
Gavarone was the sponsor of a proposal to requires voters to show photo ID. It was added to a bill that made other election law changes, such as limiting ballot drop boxes to one per county and cuts the time for mail-in ballots to be returned from 10 days after election day to four days. Over the protests of voting rights advocates, the law was signed earlier this year and takes effect in April. A lawsuit was filed in federal court over that law.