President Donald Trump strengthened his attack on the ballot in a letter last week, exchanging baseless claims about widespread voter fraud as countries consider expanding voting amidst a COVID-19 pandemic.
But in Ohio, election officials from Trump’s own party and other experts say that election fraud is very rare and assures voters that the state has many layers of checks to prevent it from happening.
That includes several layers of confirmation of the voter’s identity when they request and vote in absentees, check signatures, and investigations that appear as a result of an election official’s audit.
Former Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, now governor of the Republican lieutenant, conducted an investigation that concluded that voter fraud occurred, but not in large numbers.
In fact, it is practically microscopic compared to the turnout. In 2012, 2014 and 2016, Husted found 820 “polling irregularities” and referred 336 cases to prosecution. Voters cast nearly 14.4 million ballots in the election.
The cases referred for prosecution only represented 0.002% of the ballot papers.
“The incidence of fraud is very low. Not zero. This is not completely absent but is very low and it is not possible to influence election results except in exceptional circumstances, “said Ned Foley, director of election law at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.
That contradicts claims from the White House about rampant voter fraud, especially among absentee ballots. Trump’s claim that the mailbox was raided to influence election results is wrong, experts say, and last week Twitter attached a fact check to the president’s tweet about the ballot in the mail.
Trump himself chose by mail in Florida.
“I can tell you the terrace pirates did not steal my absentee ballots. They stole the Amazon package. I hope there is something good there,” said Nancy Miller, professor of political science at the University of Dayton.
State Secretary Frank LaRose, a Republican, said he had not seen any cases of ballots stolen from mailboxes in Ohio. Voters can track their absentee ballots online in Ohio, he said, so they will know if it does not arrive at the electoral council.
Debates about voter fraud and voter oppression are “too simplified” for partisan political gain, LaRose said.
“The president is responsible for 50 states. My focus is on Ohio. The concern he raised might be completely valid in other states. In some cases there are documented examples of problems, but not in Ohio, “he said.
LaRose said the state also regularly updates its voter list.
Last year, LaRose referred about 350 cases of non-citizen voters to the attorney general to be investigated, including 77 cases that were allegedly inappropriate for voting. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has referred 60 of these cases to the district attorney.
More than 4.5 million voters voted in Ohio in 2019.
In 2019, a Republican political agent was accused of voting to try to influence the race of Congress in North Carolina. Other cases have also arisen throughout the country, but the numbers are small compared to the number of votes cast.
The anecdotes received attention, but Foley said they did not occur in numbers large enough to influence elections in the entire state.
“That should give most Ohio citizens the comfort that in most election incidental issues, whether mistakes or fraud, tend to be unimportant,” he said.
However, recent polls show a widening partisans support for voting via mail when Trump has stepped up his attacks.
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released in April found that 47% of Democrats supported the transition to elections by letter compared to 29% of Republicans. Democrats and Republicans support all elections by letter in equal numbers in 2018, according to the poll.
“Mail in voting is one of the safest and best ways for people to vote. Both parties think so. This president is just making it up, “said Senator Sherrod Brown, a former Ohio state minister.
Last week, Twitter began attaching fact-checks to Trump’s tweets about voting by mail. In addition to his voter fraud claims, he has also claimed that Michigan plans to send absentee ballots to all its residents, but the state only plans to send absentee ballot applications.
Ohio had done the same thing in the previous election, and LaRose tried to convince state lawmakers to allow it to send applications to nearly 8 million registered voters in Ohio for the November elections and pay the postage back on the ballot. LaRose said he opposed the election by letter.
Ohio has no reason to be absent from the vote – which means voters do not have to give reasons to request an absent vote – for about two decades, with most of the period overseen by Republican regulations in offices across the state.
Trump said Republicans were at a disadvantage when more voters voted. LaRose pushed back on that point, pointing out that Ohio had a record turnout in 2016 and 2018, when Trump won the country by 8 points and Republicans dominated elections in the entire state.
Some countries have expanded their voting-by-mail system, and that could postpone the results in November because they count ballots in the weeks after Election Day. Foley said voters needed to understand that the votes were legitimate.
“There is a feeling of worry that these messages will potentially damage the trust people have in the current election process,” Miller said of Trump’s tweet. “Our whole system depends on it.”
From Columbus Shipping: Voter fraud? No problem in Ohio
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