The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
Ohio’s top elections official on Sunday tweeted that if Democrats win in Ohio they might undermine secure elections. Then he boasted of an endorsement from someone who is himself under investigation for possible election fraud.
It might demonstrate the needle Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is trying to thread as he runs on a record of conducting secure elections while touting the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who has relentlessly and falsely denigrated the security of American elections. It might also demonstrate how much more polarized things are in the wake of the Trump presidency.
LaRose ran in 2018 touting his bipartisanship, and promoting congressional and state legislative districts that don’t unfairly favor one party over another.
But this year, he’s been part of a Republican majority on a new redistricting commission. The constitutional amendment that created the commission prohibits extreme gerrymandering, but LaRose joined the majority in producing four sets of legislative maps that the Ohio Supreme Court rejected as unconstitutional because they are too partisan.
In response, LaRose went after the referees. Earlier this month, he said the Republican chief justice who voted with three Democrats on the court had “violated her oath of office” in ruling against him and that he “would be fine with” her impeachment.
That came after LaRose took to Twitter twice in February to make sweeping, misleading attacks on the press.
He was claiming that the news organization The Hill had minimized voter fraud in a story. But it was about, in part, a LaRose press release that said his office was working to “keep election fraud exceedingly rare,” and that an investigation found that a vanishingly small 0.0005% of votes might have been fraudulently cast in Ohio’s 2020 election.
On Sunday, LaRose tweeted that Ohio elections are secure under his leadership, but that might not stay the case if a Democrat is elected as secretary of state in November.
“Ohio’s become THE leader for election integrity,” he tweeted. “But that can all become undone if the Democrats win.”
And, fresh off a rally by former President Donald Trump in Delaware on Saturday, LaRose added this, “President Trump knows that — and he’s given me his full support. Join the team and chip in to help our campaign.”
Trump, of course, talks a lot about election integrity. But there are reasons to suspect that he’s not all that concerned with protecting it.
For starters, he’s under criminal investigation in Georgia for possible election fraud. Facing a loss on Jan. 2, 2021, Trump called Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and said “I just want to find 11,780 votes… “— one more than he needed to win the state. The chief executive also vaguely threatened that it was a “criminal offense” if the secretary of state didn’t do what he wanted, according to a recording of the call.
Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, is also under investigation for potential voter fraud; this time in North Carolina, where he is suspected of registering to vote in the 2020 election using a mobile home address where he’d never lived.
In addition, Trump’s 2020 electoral challenges have been thrown out by more than 60 judges — including some he appointed — and his vice president and attorney general both told him he’d lost. Even so, Trump contemplated declaring martial law, seizing voting machines and appointing fake electors to maintain his grip on power.
Then Trump encouraged supporters to come to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, and told them to march to the Capitol as Congress was certifying his loss to Joe Biden. During a violent, hours-long attack, Trump resisted calls to tell his supporters to go home. Five people died as a result of the attack.
In the aftermath of that trauma, Trump continues to falsely insist that he won in 2020.
Despite all that, the Ohio Secretary of State continues to tout Trump as an authority on election fraud. LaRose’s office didn’t respond to repeated questions this week asking if LaRose believes Trump’s claim that he was the victim of a stolen election — or if LaRose believes that Trump legitimately lost.
LaRose’s office did respond to a question asking how Democrats might jeopardize Ohio’s election security.
“At the state level, in 2020 Democrats sued (to) force the state to accept e-mailed absentee ballot requests, risking insecure attachments to be sent to county boards’ computer systems across the state,” LaRose spokesman Rob Nichols said in an email, adding that Democrats also wanted “(t)o do away with signature matching requirements on absentee ballots, so any ballot would be accepted, even if the signatures didn’t match.”
Nichols also criticized the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, a big election bill proposed by congressional Democrats that failed earlier this year.