On July 20, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose appeared before the House Homeland Security Committee to discuss Ohio’s (very good) election record, outlining efforts of the state to improve election security which he says foiled an attempt a year ago to breach Lake County election protections. LaRose often talks about how improved election security in Ohio paid off in an extremely low number of suspected voter fraud cases — a measly 0.0005% of votes in 2020, or 62 suspected cases, for example, and these alone strength have been fraudulent and were referred for further investigation.
But could LaRose also be part of the problem in recent tweets that refer to those 62 cases as “ONLY THE BEGINNING,” or that warn that Democrats aim to shred the state’s election security if they take office? or heightening talk (and doubt) about electoral votes in other states as he sought (and won) Donald Trump’s endorsement in his bid for re-election this year?
Ohio voted for Trump. But the hearings into the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack revealed how election officials in some states that did not opt for Trump faced merciless harassment when they refused to substitute fake presidential voters to those chosen by voters in 2020. A survey by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law “found that one in six [local election officials surveyed] have been threatened because of their jobs, and that almost one in three know one or more election workers who left their job at least in part because of fear for their safety, increased threats or intimidation.
And that may not even be the worst consequence of Trump’s politically motivated campaign to cast doubt on election security. Far more worrisome to some pundits is the possibility that it intensifies discouragement and doubts about the fairness of the election enough to trigger an accelerating spiral of distrust that Trump or others could exploit to try to alter future election results.
Does Frank LaRose share some of the blame for this, or are his comments about voter fraud just politics as usual as LaRose mulls a future Senate in bright red Ohio? What can or should be done to build trust in our electoral system? Our editorial board roundtable offers its thoughts.
Ted Diadiun, columnist:
Frank LaRose rebuffed a primary challenge from a Holocaust denier by saying unequivocally that the election was not stolen, and his performance as Secretary of State is prima facie enough to bolster confidence in the electoral system of Ohio, despite its campaign rhetoric. He has nothing to reproach himself for.
Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:
Secretary LaRose should stick to his knitting — overseeing the Ohio election — rather than seeking publicity, the latter quest seems to be his current focus. There will be plenty of time for microphones and cameras in 2024.
Eric Foster, columnist:
I wouldn’t say LaRose adds to the doubts, because that would suggest he’s leading the crowd. LaRose is clearly following the crowd with remarks about “election security” and doubting other states’ election results. He will say whatever he needs to guarantee his status. Accomplished politician.
Lisa Garvin, Editorial Board Member:
As Jackson Browne sang in “The Pretender,” “He started out so young and strong, only to surrender.” LaRose masterfully handled the pandemic-hit 2020 election, but then did nothing to stop the gerrymandering and nodded and winked at election doubters. Could the real Frank LaRose stand up?
Victor Ruiz, member of the editorial board:
Secretary LaRose constantly shifts positions to suit his political aspirations, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. I am disturbed by his rhetoric, especially since Ohio is majority Republican. However, I understand Trump’s endorsement means more to him than doing his job with dignity and professionalism.
Mary Cay Doherty, Editorial Board Member:
LaRose is right on both counts: Ohio elections are secure and election security requires constant vigilance. Instead of obsessing over Trump’s influence on “average” Americans, political and cultural elites should ask why many Americans view elites as untrustworthy and out of touch with mainstream concerns and values.
Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director:
Frank LaRose diminishes himself and his accomplishments when he poses as an advocate for election security, then tweets dire warnings about voter fraud that contradict the actual record in Ohio.
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