A ballot drop box is seen outside the Athens County Board of Elections. Photo by Tyler Buchanan, OCJ.
The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.
Despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud, election security has become one of the main talking points for some Ohio Republicans.
Voter fraud is incredibly rare in Ohio. Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent 75 allegations of fraud during the 2020 election to law enforcement, which is just .001%. However, when OCJ/WEWS asked his team how many of these claims have been substantiated, they said they did not know.
Once the allegations have been referred to the attorney general and county prosecutors, law enforcement will not update the LaRose team on if any are resulting in cases or convictions.
“This is part of the reason why we’re creating the Public Integrity Division so that we have former law enforcement officers who are able to do a thorough investigation into these matters and hand it off to law enforcement in a manner that is that is better suited to win prosecution,” Sec. of State Spokesperson Rob Nichols told OCJ/WEWS.
But creating a Public Integrity Division just reiterates the ‘Big Lie,’ which is the baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, according to Northeast Ohio voter Courtney Flynn. She is a Democrat and helps register people to vote with the Ohio Voter Coalition.
“They’re creating these organizations and committees to look into this type of stuff, but the things that they’re seeing are just like made up or just completely exacerbated to make it seem like it’s worse than it,” she added.
Flynn trusts Ohio’s election process, and it’s frustrating to hear politicians put forward unsubstantiated claims of widespread voting fraud, she said.
“I go into every single election voting knowing that my vote counts,” she said.
Some other voters, like Republican activist Christine Oliver, say there needs to be a conversation about this. For her, she feels uncomfortable with anything other than day-of, in-person voting.
“We do need to have some more stricter [sic] protocols in place,” Oliver said.
She worries absentee ballots can be tampered with and that there is too much time between early voting and the actual election.
Paul Adams with the Lorain County Board of Elections said there is nothing to worry about.
“We do everything in a bipartisan manner, particularly when it comes to ballots,” Adams said. “In the state of Ohio, starting in 2008, we have audited elections to make sure that there are no discrepancies or issues that arise.”
Oliver appreciates the bipartisan checks, but doesn’t trust mail-in ballots or drop boxes, she said.
“You’re just taking something and just dropping it in there and there isn’t any way to know who really did it,” she added.
All drop boxes are checked by a bipartisan team and have 24-hour surveillance. At some boards of elections, like Adams, they collaborate with local law enforcement to ensure there is a deputy at the board, even throughout the night when no one else is there.
“It’s done that way so that when people come in and see the process and we’re going through it, everyone knows these procedures are strong and that there is no question about the integrity of the election,” the official said.
However, the rhetoric around voter fraud isn’t really meant to benefit security, Flynn said, but rather for candidates who lose their races.
“Unfortunately, I feel like this is one tactic that’s used very often to show that if an election turnout doesn’t go the way that [some] want to be, people can fall back on this excuse,” she said.
Going into this election with people already having concerns with voter security is defeating, she added. She doesn’t want to have to deal with people contesting elections when they clearly lost, thus ignoring reality.
“I know that so many of the people that I know are very deflated going into this election, knowing that we’re just going to come out of it, hearing the same exact things — that the politicians that didn’t get elected are going to say that there were problems,” Flynn said.
Although fraud is exceedingly rare, all boards of elections are trained to be cognizant and to report anything that seems out of place.
Want to learn what district you’re in and which candidates you can vote for? OCJ/WEWS is here to help. We created a 2022 midterm elections guide, which is updated daily based on the changing candidacies.
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