LaRose dismisses fraud claims

Describes Trump’s assertions on election as ‘unbelievable’

Staff file photo / R. Michael Semple Bill Boccia of Howland, center, receives his instructions and ballot from Trumbull County Board of Elections worker Jackie Loges, left, during the first day of early voting on Oct. 6.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he hasn’t vetted claims from President Donald Trump about election fraud, “but certainly there are things that I’ve heard that sound pretty unbelievable to me.”

In an interview, LaRose said about Trump, a fellow Republican: “My challenge is, present your evidence.”

Trump has filed multiple unsuccessful lawsuits in states where he either lost or is losing to Joe Biden and claims Democrats are “trying to steal the election.”

LaRose added: “I’ve been very plain spoken about (fraud claims). I’ve called out members of my party when they make unfounded claims. I’ve called out members of the other party. What I’ve said is, ‘If you have evidence, you need to present it.’ Making claims about voter fraud and then not presenting any evidence is where the concern comes in.”

When asked if voter fraud allegations coming from the president are different than from others, LaRose said, “Any kind of claim like that without evidence is problematic. You need to show evidence. Unfounded claims are irresponsible. If you have evidence then show it. Any party has not only the right, but the duty to bring evidence to light and have it vetted by the legal system.”

He added, “My challenge is present your evidence,” and what he’s heard so far from Trump’s campaign sounds “pretty unbelievable to me.”

LaRose compared claims of election fraud by Trump and other Republicans to the 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia.

“I thought it was incredibly irresponsible when Ohio politicians like (U.S. Sen.) Sherrod Brown were claiming that the Republicans stole the Georgia election and did other things to politicize election administration,” LaRose said. “I’ve been very plain spoken that the president shouldn’t be making claims like that either unless he has evidence to back it up.”

Brown said after the 2018 election, but before the results were certified, that “if (Democrat) Stacy Abrams doesn’t win in Georgia, they stole it.”

When asked to comment on LaRose’s statement regarding Georgia, Brown, D-Cleveland, issued a written statement about this election:

“Despite orchestrated attempts by Trump and Republican leaders to suppress the vote, Americans across the country turned out in droves for Joe Biden,” he said. “There was no evidence of voter fraud, and Donald Trump’s attacks on our democratic process are dangerous.”

The issues in the 2018 Georgia election primarily involved the purging of voters and questioning the validity of signatures, mostly of minorities, by the office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican-elected governor in that race, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But the newspaper also reported there was “no evidence of systematic malfeasance.”


LaRose said even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio did an exceptional job during this election.

It was “not only the most honest election and most accurate election that we could ever have, but the most accessible,” he said.

LaRose said his office worked hard to combat disinformation from “foreign adversaries” and “domestic operators” that “try to confuse or disorient voters.”

“The best way to combat lies is the truth,” he said.

More Ohioans voted in this election than any other in the state’s history, he said, with more than half of the votes cast early in-person, by mail or placed in secured drop boxes outside boards of elections. In normal years, early voting makes up about 25 percent of total ballots, he said.

Voting by mail is something LaRose said he encourages people to do as it gives them more time to make informed decisions.

The drop boxes were a source of contention, with LaRose saying he supports having them at other locations than just outside election boards, but that decision has to be approved by the state Legislature.

“That needs to happen at the Statehouse and not the courthouse,” he said.

LaRose said some “thought I overstepped my authority by ordering all county boards of elections to install” the drop boxes.

A state appeals court gave LaRose the authority to issue an order to have drop boxes elsewhere, but he said, “Those changes shouldn’t be made days before early voting.”

At the time of LaRose’s decision, David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, one of the litigants in the lawsuit to expand drop boxes, said the secretary of state was “going back on his word with a transparent, cynical ploy.”

LaRose said he’s open to expanding drop box locations in future elections, but only if the Legislature approves it.

Asked why he requested a legal opinion on July 20 from Attorney General Dave Yost about additional drop boxes, LaRose said: “Because I’m not a lawyer and I wanted to find out if I have the authority to do it. That was in the mid-summer when there was time, but for whatever reason after three weeks of waiting” without an answer from Yost’s office “I chose the safe course of action.”

He also said he was concerned that people would be confused by drop boxes at places such as libraries and put their ballots in the book return box causing their votes to be invalidated. And if a court decided multiple drop boxes weren’t allowed, those ballots wouldn’t have been counted, LaRose said.

In addition to more drop boxes, LaRose wants the Legislature to pass a bill to allow voters to request absentee ballots online “instead of having to print the dead tree piece of paper and send it to the board of elections.”

LaRose wants to give county boards of elections “the flexibility to have more early voting locations. They’re restricted to one per county in state law. There’s no reason we need to do that. It requires a change in the state law.”


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