Election-denying Secretary of State candidate asks state supreme court to allow ‘election observers’

By: - October 18, 2022 4:55 am

A Voting Location Manager assists a voter with the ballot counter machine during the Ohio primary election, May 3, 2022, at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, Dublin, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Please only republish photo with story with which it originally appears.)

An Ohio Secretary of State candidate who denied the validity of the 2020 election has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to compel the use of election observers in the November election.

Terpsehore Maras, a podcaster who has also espoused QAnon conspiracy theories, filed a lawsuit against incumbent Secretary of State Frank LaRose, hoping to compel LaRose to allow her to appoint “election observers.”

Independent Ohio Secretary of State candidate Terpsehore Maras. Photo from Maras’ website at https://marasforohio.com.ohiosvoice.com/.

Election observers are already allowed under law, but Maras, who is running as an independent, took issue with a part of the law that requires a candidate who isn’t affiliated with a political party to join with four additional candidates to submit a “notice of appointment” for election observers.

“Citizens who vote for independent candidates are functionally prohibited from receiving the benefit of observers appointed by the candidate they support,” Maras’s court filing stated.

She said the requirements on independent candidates “to satisfy difficult or impossible criteria” denies the candidates and their supporters “equal protection of the law and associational rights under the Ohio and United States Constitutions.”

Maras also accused LaRose of violating the Ohio Revised Code relating to ballot inspection after he authorized all Ohio counties to use electronic vote tabulating equipment, which Maras claims “legally appointed observers cannot access and cannot meaningfully observe or inspect.”

In asking LaRose to allow inspections, Maras said election observers should be provided “access to the internal processes of such equipment.”

Election observers merely watching a ballot go into a machine “is akin to a counting room with a locked door where workers from private companies take the ballots in, supposedly count them and return to the onlookers outside with assurances that nothing untoward took place within the confines of the locked counting room,” Maras told the court.

The SOS candidate has run on a platform of returning paper ballots to the election process and eliminating all voting machines in the state.

Across the country, Republicans aligned with former President Donald Trump have directed ire at electronic voting machines, with Republicans in at least six states introducing legislation this year to ban the use of ballot tabulators (Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, New Hampshire, Washington and West Virginia). Over 90% of U.S. election jurisdictions currently use electronic tabulators, with only the smallest counties opting to count votes by hand.

Voting experts say that using hand counting as the default method to count ballots, which requires that all voters cast paper ballots, is incredibly expensive, burdensome, and time-consuming.

Secretary of State LaRose has said instances of election fraud in Ohio are “exceedingly rare,” but has also accused the media of trying to “minimize voter fraud to suit their narrative,” and said election integrity could be “undone if the Democrats win” as he boasted garnering the support of Trump, who himself faces allegations of crimes in a Georgia election fraud case.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Official photo.

LaRose also recently announced an “election public integrity division” that combines preexisting election protections, though expansions to the number of investigators won’t happen until after this year’s general election.

In the Maras case, LaRose responded to the claims by acknowledging that election observers “serve an important role in election integrity and in ensuring transparency in Ohio’s elections” and that they are “an important component in preventing voter fraud and intimidation.”

But LaRose also denied that the Ohio Supreme Court had jurisdiction to rule on the case.

In response to Maras’ claims about electronic voting machines, LaRose said Ohio counties “long ago procured and have been using electronic voting and vote tabulating systems that have been tested and certified by the federal Election Assistance Commission,” and certified for Ohio use by the Board of Voting Machine Examiners.

The incumbent secretary of state said “only qualified electors, not machines, cast votes in Ohio’s elections and only qualified election officials, who are aided by technology, count votes.”

He pushed back on arguments that software and source code for voting machines should be made available, as that would “greatly increase the risk of tabulating machines being tampered with by malicious domestic and foreign actors who wish to disrupt our elections,” he said in a court filing.

This is the second time Maras has been before the Ohio Supreme Court with an election-related case; the first time, she was asking the court to allow her to be a candidate in the first place. The state’s highest court sided with Maras, allowing her candidacy in the November election, over the objection of LaRose, who said she did not have enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot.

The Ohio Supreme Court set a deadline of Oct. 20 for any evidence and filings in the election observer case.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.