LaRose observes election audit in Lima

Apr. 18—LIMA — With the November election on the horizon, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is working to instill confidence among voters regarding the state's electoral process.

To that end, LaRose made an appearance Thursday at the Allen County Board of Elections meeting to observe the agency's audit of the March primary election results.

"We do it every election, not just general elections and not just presidential elections," LaRose said. "What this means is that a group of bipartisan elections officials, two Democrats and two Republicans, sit and count the hard copy paper ballots, the actual dead-tree, wet-ink paper ballots and compare it to the election results that were tabulated by the voting machines."

According to board director Kathy Meyer, precincts were selected randomly for the audit by a roll of the dice until the number of ballots reached 5 percent of the total ballots cast during the election. In Thursday's case, the audit showed no discrepancies between the tabulator totals and the paper ballots.

"It has been a smooth process," Meyer said. "Every time we've done it, [the results] have been right on."

Those results have been typical of recent election audits statewide, with Ohio ballot audits showing 99.98 percent accuracy in 2020 and 99.9 percent accuracy in 2022, according to LaRose.

"We don't just have electronic voting, and we also don't just have paper voting, but we have both in parallel, and the two have to match up," he said. "That's the kind of redundancy and backup we have, and it's just another reason why Ohioans can be confident in their elections."

For election boards, the focus now turns to the upcoming November election, and according to LaRose, the state is working to ensure that everything will be in place for a smooth electoral experience.

"We're traveling around the state doing readiness seminars with our county boards of elections to really think through any worst-case scenarios and make sure that we have the backup plans and redundancies built in," he said.

One unusual election-related scenario LaRose is currently dealing with centers around the Democratic National Convention, scheduled to take place Aug. 19-22 in Chicago. Ohio law prescribes that any candidate nomination be filed 90 days prior to Election Day, but the current schedule would not permit President Joe Biden's nomination for re-election to be filed until after that deadline.

LaRose said he reached out to the Democratic National Committee as well as leadership in the Ohio Legislature to alert them of the issue that could prevent Biden's name from appearing on the Ohio ballot unless changes are made.

"I said, 'Guys, you're going to have to pay attention to this,'" he said. "Some partisans are out there saying that I should ignore the law, but I don't think you want a secretary of state who just ignores the law arbitrarily."

The solutions, according to LaRose, are to move the Democratic National Convention to before August, presenting severe logistical difficulties, or have the Ohio Legislature pass a measure to approve a temporary change to the current law for only this election to permit the later filing. Any such measure would have to be passed before early May in order to go into effect in time since laws passed in the Ohio legislature do not come into effect for 90 days unless passed as an emergency.

Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, expressed an openness to doing that during a Wednesday press conference.