Ohio SoS Announces Expanded Effort To Deal With An Election Problem That Does Not Exist

WASHINGTON - MARCH 15: Frank LaRose, Republican candidate for Senate, attends the Columbiana County Lincoln Day Dinner in Salem, Ohio on Friday, March 15, 2024. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
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Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose joined MAGA Republicans and Trump allies in sounding the non-citizen voting alarms ahead of 2024, announcing a new initiative to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls in Ohio — a solution to a Republican manufactured problem.

Earlier this week, LaRose announced an expanded effort to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls, highlighting in his announcement that the Secretary of State’s Public Integrity Division and Office of Data Analytics and Archives identified 137 possible non-citizen voters through records from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. 

“The data found 137 voter registrations assigned to Ohio residents who have twice confirmed their non-citizenship status to the BMV,” the press release reads. 

But the announcement did little beyond prove how much of a non-issue non-citizen voting is in the state. 

For his part, LaRose did note that some of these registrations might have been due to an “honest mistake” over language barriers. And while 137 possibly ineligible voters were identified as part of this new expanded review process, LaRose said they “may be well-meaning people trying to pursue the American dream, and communication barriers sometimes result in a registration form being submitted in error.” 

But LaRose failed to mention that Ohio has around 8 million registered voters, meaning 137 possible discrepancies is less than 0.002 percent of the total number of registered voters — a figure that only serves to highlight how secure the state’s elections are.

The messaging is also reflective of other issues Republican election officials are facing after Donald Trump and his allies spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election: appealing to those who don’t trust the election systems, while also trying to show that they are being vigilant about election security. 

“They’re trying to walk a tightrope of appealing to those who cast doubt on the integrity of the elections,” explained David Levine, senior elections integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, “while also trying to demonstrate that they are being vigilant in ensuring legitimacy of their own elections.”

The small number of potentially ineligible voters, experts told TPM, is not reflective of anything malicious, as Trump allies would have voters believe.

“This actually shows that there are already systems in place to identify and remove any ineligible voters who happen to make their way onto the roll for whatever reason,” Jonathan Diaz, director of voting advocacy and partnerships at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, told TPM. 

If noncitizens were actually voting en masse in Ohio, LaRose’s office would have found evidence of this as part of this expanded effort, which involved cross referencing voter registrations with Ohio BMV identification records. The 137 identified were residents who had confirmed non-citizenship status to the BMV at least twice. 

Instead, this initiative and LaRose’s efforts to highlight the 137 possible ineligible voters only serves to further perpetuate the pernicious myth that the country’s elections are compromised and noncitizens voting is a real threat. 

“This kind of broader narrative that we’re seeing pushed by the speaker and President Trump and all of these other people about this widespread voting by non-US citizens is just not true,” said Diaz.

Non-citizen voting in elections has been outlawed for decades and the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which requires all new registrants to provide identification at the polls, was passed to bolster efforts to prevent non-citizen voting, as previously reported by TPM. It rarely happens in the U.S., in part because voting illegally in the country as a non-citizen not only comes with a serious criminal penalty, but also it can get a person deported. 

“This notion, that you would risk all of that considering what you might’ve done to get to the country for your one vote, which is unlikely to impact the outcome, is incredulous,” said Levine.

It’s also important to emphasize that the small number of potentially ineligible voters that LaRose’s office identified, does not necessarily imply anything malicious going on. 

While LaRose acknowledged that the potentially ineligible voters may have been registered by mistake, this effort still serves to perpetuate a larger false narrative that is increasingly a sticking point for Republicans ahead of 2024. 

“There are all sorts of normal technical errors or regular human mistakes that could result in somebody being erroneously registered to vote when they’re ineligible,” Diaz said. “And that’s why the election system in every state is built with multiple checks and safeguards at various steps of the process to make sure that only actually eligible voters are voting.”

Correction: A previous headline on this story misidentified LaRose’s title. TPM regrets the error.

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Notable Replies

  1. Jeebus F-ing Christ on a cracker. These folks keep finding an ever-expanding interpretation of “stepping off the deep-end.”

  2. Avatar for noonm noonm says:

    Just going to put this here.

    Going on a campaign to purge 0.002 percent of the voter rolls is not going to get you into higher office either Mr. LaRose. You’ll always be the distant third place finalist.

  3. This is the crux: Republican leadership knows this is not a problem but must be a problem because (a) the largely illegitimate civic doubts they have intentionally fed have come back to bite them and (b) they are unable to fix real problems regardless so might as well manufacture problems they can then pretend to fix. Predictable.

    Increasingly in recent times we have come first to identify the remedy that is most agreeable, most convenient, most in accord with major pecuniary or political interest, the one that reflects our available faculty for action; then we move from the remedy so available or desired back to a cause to which that remedy is relevant. – John Kenneth Galbraith (1986)

    The Republicans however no longer require or even desire a real cause or a real fix either: Choosing to live on Bullshit Mountain has consequences, real ones; who would have thought.

    No matter how cynical you get, it’s impossible to keep up.” ― Lily Tomlin

  4. Ney - here in my state, NC, the idiots in the Senate just voted for a bill to make it illegal to wear a mask in public - for ANY reason. You have the flu and don’t want to spread it - tough, that’s illegal. Are you immunocompromised and need to avoid getting an infection - tough, that’s illegal.

    They MIGHT make an exception for medical reasons.

    The author of the bill said he would have done this in 2020 to keep people from wearing masks to avoid COVID but he wasn’t elected yet.

  5. Twice a non-citizen, forever a non-citizen?

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