Elections and Politics

Ohio Election Official: 

Politics are Political; 

Election Administration is Not

By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Producer
Public News Service

(PNS) - 2/10/2022 - Since Election Day 2020, the integrity and accuracy of the vote has been the subject of speculation across the country, with local boards of elections often caught in the crosshairs.

    Here in Ohio, election officials seem to have avoided much of the controversy. With far-right groups and supporters of former President Donald Trump still questioning the 2020 results, several red states have moved to give legislatures more power over elections instead of secretaries of state, and penalize election workers for technical mistakes.

    Aaron Sellers, public information officer for the Franklin County Board of Elections, said while politics are political, elections administration in Ohio is not.

    "Everything we do here is done in bipartisan teams," Sellers emphasized. "For example, when the voting-location person brings back the supplies on election night, if that person is a Republican, there's a Democrat ride-along person that comes along with them, or vice versa."

More than half of voters in a recent Quinnipiac poll said they do not believe there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Ohio's postelection audits revealed an accuracy rate of 99.98% in 2020 and 99.99% in 2021, based on data from counties utilizing a percentage-based audit.

    While other states scrambled to develop a plan for voting in 2020 due to COVID, Sellers pointed out Ohio was ahead of the curve. Critics argued mail-in voting is more susceptible to fraud, but he explained there are multiple verification processes before the ballot is even mailed out.

    "And when it is returned, there's additional measures that we go through before we put that in the pile to count," Sellers added. "It's verification signatures, the last four digits of their 'soc,' (Social Security number) their driver's license number, whatever they're providing, those things are checked on the front end and the back end before those ballots are counted."

    With Ohio's legislative and congressional district maps still not set in stone, Sellers noted boards of election are in a holding pattern when it comes to preparations for the May 3 primary.

    "We're just as anxious as I'm sure our elected officials are to get this resolved," Sellers emphasized. "Elections officials, we take an oath to do this, and when it's scheduled we'll do what we need to do like we did in 2020 because of COVID."

    Wednesday, Republican Senate President Matt Huffman suggested keeping the May 3 primary for statewide and local elections, and holding a second for statehouse and congressional seats. There are concerns about the cost for two primaries, as well as the possibility of lower turnout.

    Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York. Story credit: Public News Service, 2/10/2022, Mary Schuermann, Producer