Ohio Secretary of State Launches New Election Investigation Unit

One in five Ohioans surveyed said threats to democracy are a top concern before the 2022 midterms

Ohio Secretary of State Launches New Election Investigation Unit
ERIC SANDY / SCENE

Instances of voter fraud are few and far between, but Ohio election officials want to ensure voters have confidence in the integrity of the system.

Frank LaRose, Ohio's Secretary of State, is launching a new Public Integrity Division to consolidate the office's current investigative work into campaign finance, voter registration, election law and cybersecurity irregularities.

LaRose explained his office lacks a dedicated team of professional investigators, and those tasks often fall upon local county boards of election.

"Elections administrators responsible for training poll workers and arranging voting locations and mailing out absentee ballots could tomorrow be asked to put on the investigator's hat and do an investigation," LaRose pointed out. "Naturally, that's not their skill set, and it's not what they're trained to do."

Some 31 contests in Ohio have ended in ties since 2020, with many others decided by a single vote. LaRose argued strengthening investigative capabilities will give voters greater confidence in a secure election system. The Secretary of State's Office has referred more than six dozen potential voter-fraud cases this year to local prosecutors. Democrats have criticized Republican LaRose for "wasting taxpayer dollars on a problem that doesn't exist."

The new division starts operations one day before Ohio's voter registration deadline of Oct. 11. LaRose noted a large number of absentee ballot requests are coming in, and voter registrations recently topped eight million.

"We're always working to encourage voter registration, but we also make sure that the rolls stay accurate," LaRose asserted. "So, it kind of ebbs and flows. We remove deceased voters from the rolls on a monthly basis; we make sure that people get removed from the rolls when they move out of state. So, going over eight million is something that we're really proud of."

He is also encouraging Ohioans to assist on Election Day. Ohio has close to 4,000 polling locations open for more than 12 hours, staffed by more than 50,000 volunteers.

"I always tell people, 'Think about how big Ohio Stadium is. If you're watching a Buckeyes game. That's half the seating capacity of that stadium just in poll workers.' Half of them are Republicans, half of them are Democrats, all of them are patriots that do this work of running elections," LaRose remarked. "And we need more people all the time."

Ohio has poll-worker recruitment initiatives targeting high school seniors, veterans, attorneys and others. LaRose also encouraged companies to give employees a day off work to volunteer, or nonprofit groups to create a fundraiser where volunteers donate their poll-worker pay to a charity.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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