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Republicans falsely created mistrust in elections and are now citing it to justify attacking voters

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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal)

Do not fall for the Great Election Integrity Hoax. It goes like this: Politicians, courting MAGA love, keep the myth alive that massive voting fraud is real. Either explicitly or implicitly, they perpetuate the lie concocted by a sore loser who fraudulently tried to overturn his election defeat. The kicker? They cite (unfounded) mistrust in the election system — that they themselves seeded — as an excuse to disenfranchise voters in the name of “election integrity.”

In Republican Statehouses across the country, including Ohio, the Great Election Integrity Hoax is in full swing with a raft of baseless voting restrictions sold as insurance against nonexistent threats. Politicians throw up more insidious hoops for voters to jump through and claim they’re responding to public concerns with state elections that they agree are above reproach.

“Election integrity is a significant concern to Americans on both sides of the aisle across the country,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine after signing one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country. “At the same time,” the Republican rubberstamp equivocated, “I have long believed that Ohio does a good job of administering elections, as we have provided ample opportunities to cast votes while avoiding the problems we have seen in recent federal elections in other states.”

Translation: “I’m erecting new voting barriers, that disproportionally affect voters who tend to vote Democratic, because people who were deliberately misled about rampant voting fraud are worried about their votes counting even though Ohio’s elections are the gold standard in credibility.” Classic DeWine obfuscation. He gave a similarly muddled response weeks before he approved excessive impediments to voting.

When asked to justify adding more stringent voter ID requirements, cutting the early voting period, and giving voters less time to return their mail-in ballots — given Ohio’s stellar history of by-the-books elections — the governor stated the obvious and ducked.“The burden is always on the person who wants to change the status quo. They have to show there is a real need for this and I’m going to look at the bill and look at each provision and make a decision.”

But DeWine never did show “a real need” to fix what — by his own admission — ain’t broke. Neither did Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose who has regularly touted the integrity of Ohio’s election system and emphasized how “exceedingly rare” voter fraud is in the state. Both Republicans simply dropped vague references to “election integrity” and voter “concerns,” as rationale enough to endorse unnecessary voting hurdles.

Allusions to the same imaginary voting dilemmas were echoed by Ohio Senate Republicans when they rushed House Bill 458, with a slew of indefensible anti-voter amendments, to passage in the waning hours of the last session. “Securing the integrity of our elections must be our top priority,” declared state Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg. “We must undertake every effort to prevent voter fraud and requiring a photo ID to vote is a huge step in ensuring that.”

Wrong. Massively changing how elections are administered and how Ohioans can access their most fundamental American right to vote for no good reason isn’t progress, it’s a sham. The GOP campaign to prevent voter fraud — in a state that boasts safe and secure elections with a 99.98% accuracy rate statewide — and mandate only certain forms of photo ID to stop voter impersonation — in a state that reports zero cases of it — is a partisan hoax.

Ohio Republicans employed the smokescreen of “election integrity” to suppress voter turnout ahead of the 2024 election. Period. The ruse allowed them to impose unwarranted voter ID edicts that will particularly challenge minority voters, low-income Ohioans, seniors, college students, voters with disabilities, and military voters. Why? For years, numerous citizens without the means or desire to get a driver’s license or state ID card have relied on other acceptable forms of reliable identification to vote, such as a utility bill or paycheck stub.

They lose that freedom and the certainty of being allowed to cast a ballot with the new voter ID law. Potentially hundreds of thousands of Ohioans without a photo ID will now have to find a way to the BMV, take time off work to stand in line, and hopefully qualify for a state-issued ID provided they have the correct paperwork. This is a “needless and discriminatory” burden on voters motivated not by hard evidence of systemic voting fraud, irregularities, or misrepresentation but by political guile.

“I firmly believe that Ohio runs exceptional elections,” said state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Huron, an ardent cheerleader for the new voting restrictions. “However, there are always ways we can improve (wait for it) election integrity, which includes reducing the possibility of election fraud in Ohio.” Or reducing the possibility of expanded voter participation by “disempowering certain voters from the franchise” with indefensible barriers.

A coalition of activist groups has sued the state over its unjustified “all-sides attack on the voting process” premised on lies about widespread voter fraud in 2020. They nailed the con in their complaint.

The Great Election Integrity Hoax is nothing more than a cunning scheme by those who have co-opted the electoral system “to entrench their positions of power at the expense of voters’ rights.” Dirty pool by a party without principle.

Don’t fall for it.


Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.

This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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