More and more Americans are losing faith in their institutions. Trust in Congress, the justice system and the media are at record lows. If we are going to restore our faith in these institutions, we can’t lose faith in the institution that gives us the ability create change — our democracy.
So, when I hear anyone claim that an election is going to be rigged or that voters will be disenfranchised, I take notice.
That’s why as Ohio’s chief elections officer, I have made it my mission to strike a balance between making it easy to vote and hard to cheat. We work every day to build a more secure system of elections, and any suggestion that our elections system is rigged is a step too far.
Lacking any credible evidence, allegations like these are intended only to strike fear into voters that their opponents are going to “steal” the election. This is not just irresponsible; it unjustly calls into question the legitimacy of our elections. When these seeds of doubt are sown in the minds of voters, our elections system — the cornerstone of our democracy — is compromised.
The fact of the matter is that in Ohio, we have safeguards in place to protect the vote and to ensure that only ballots cast by qualified electors are counted.
It starts with the elections officials at the local level. In each of Ohio’s 88 counties, a bipartisan team of Democrats and Republicans administer the election. This means that throughout the entire elections process, members of both parties are present to access voting equipment, handle voted ballots and tabulate the results.
Consequently, election administration is a rare example where members of opposing political parties actually work together toward a shared goal.
Our state’s elections officials are also held accountable because from start to finish, the way we conduct our elections is open and transparent. Election observers and the media are permitted at polling locations as ballots are cast and can be present during the vote counting process after the polls close.
We work tirelessly to maintain accurate and up-to-date voter rolls so that only eligible, qualified electors are casting ballots. Through our efforts we have removed more than 515,000 deceased voters from the rolls, resolved more than 1.5 million duplicate registrations and contacted more than three million Ohioans to either update their voter registration or encourage them to register to vote.
When it comes time to cast their ballot, voters are required to provide some form of identification so local elections officials can verify that the voter is eligible to vote.
True, even with these safeguards in place, voter fraud does exist. But it is rare, and we prosecute violators. There is also no credible evidence of systemic voter fraud in Ohio.
Elections integrity is not limited to security alone. It also includes making sure that voting is accessible. As Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, I championed voting reforms that included no-excuse absentee voting.
As a result, Ohioans today enjoy one of the most generous voting schedules in the nation, with nearly a month to cast a ballot that includes nearly 650 hours to vote by mail, more than 200 hours to vote early in person, or 13 hours on Election Day.
In recent years in Ohio, we have had 109 local races and issues that were decided by a single vote or resulted in a tie. One vote really can make a difference, making election participation and integrity equally important.
That is why I cannot stress enough the power of each person’s vote. And it is my job to give them confidence that their voice will be heard and their ballot counted.
America is a beacon of hope around the world, in part because we have sorted out our differences with elections. Whether we like the outcome or not, we trust our elections and believe in the principles of democracy. Leaders have a responsibility to preserve this trust, not undermine it.