Ohio Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose is slated to appear Saturday at the ultra-right wing, back-slapping Washington D.C. CPAC conference on an election panel titled, “They Stole it From Us Legally.”
LaRose is there to promote what he likes to call the “Ohio Model” for elections, which Ohioans now know from first-hand experience includes illegal gerrymandering in defiance of voters, the rule of law, and the Ohio Supreme Court; and insidious, anti-democratic lawmaking that assaults the power of voters and our ability to cast our ballots.
Since assuming statewide office in 2019, LaRose’s mask hasn’t just slipped; it’s fallen off, down the stairs, through the foyer, and out the front door.
LaRose postures as some sort of national spokesman for election integrity, but he’s revealed himself to be just another extremist right-wing reactionary attacking voters, elections, and representative government in Ohio every chance he gets.
Let’s check the receipts.
In 2011 as a state senator, LaRose voted for the gerrymander-rigged political maps Ohio had from 2011 to 2021, considered some of the most egregious in the country as not a single U.S. Congressional district changed hands. Those lines were created in a secret GOP hotel room “bunker” at the downtown Double Tree in Columbus.
Campaigning in 2018, LaRose co-wrote a national opinion piece about how bad he supposedly thought gerrymandering is, declaring, “Even if our party benefitted, it’s still wrong. By gerrymandering districts, we send the message that winning elections is more important than finding effective policy solutions.”
Then in 2021 and 2022, LaRose voted repeatedly as a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission for Ohio Statehouse and U.S. Congressional political maps that were declared unconstitutional gerrymanders seven times by a bipartisan Ohio Supreme Court.
LaRose’s pattern is clear: His words are empty and meaningless — it’s what he actually does that matters.
Instead of fixing the maps and stopping the gerrymandering — as more than 70% of Ohio voters wanted — Republicans and LaRose ignored the courts, flouted the voters’ will, ran out the clock, and had a Trump-appointed federal court force Ohioans to cast ballots in unconstitutional districts.
What resulted was Republicans holding control over two-thirds of Ohio’s U.S. House delegation, and expanding their gerrymandered supermajorities in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate to 67-32 and 26-7, respectively.
Election integrity and election denialism
Right after the 2022 election, in a lame-duck session, Ohio Republican lawmakers, with LaRose’s encouragement and Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature to start the new year, enacted the most restrictive voter photo ID law in America.
Despite lawmakers ignoring pleas from his own office to make the law less restrictive on active duty service members of the U.S. military, LaRose has been one of the laws’ biggest cheerleaders, hawking it — and himself — repeatedly on TV as he salivates over a 2024 run to represent Ohioans in the U.S. Senate.
Ohio’s new voter photo ID law excludes state veterans’ IDs as well as college IDs, and eliminates a variety of early voting opportunities, including a six-day reduction in the amount of time military service members have to return their ballots.
“What kind of society do we call ourselves if we are disenfranchising people from the rights that they are over there protecting?” Navy veteran Willis Gordon told the Associated Press.
Even before this new law, Ohio was ranked as one of the top 10 most difficult states in America to vote. Apparently unsatisfied, Ohio Republicans and LaRose have endeavored to make us Top 5.
What’s LaRose’s excuse for yet another despicable attack on voters in Ohio?
He’s repeatedly cited a “crisis of confidence” in elections on the part of voters, pretending this right-wing hysteria over election integrity exists in a vacuum.
In the three years since the traitor Donald Trump incited a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow a free and fair election, Republicans and right-wing media have falsely manufactured large-scale mistrust in elections, and are now citing it to justify attacking voters.
Even Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch admitted in court that his most prominent propagandists including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, endorsed known election lies.
As OCJ columnist Marilou Johanek wrote Feb. 14, LaRose is perpetuating a hoax: “He is not fixing anything that’s broken in the state’s free, fair, secure, and incredibly accurate elections. He is giving credence to a lie amplified by MAGA Republicans and arguably disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters as a result.”
OCJ has reported repeatedly, according to figures from LaRose’s own office, total possible voter fraud in the 2020 election was a microscopic 0.0005%. Even less were prosecuted.
No voter fraud problem — impersonation or otherwise — exists for LaRose to address, but he is attacking voters and democracy anyway, just for the politics of it.
This is another pattern for Frank LaRose: Hurting voters unnecessarily because it’s personally or politically beneficial to Frank LaRose.
Ohio Constitutional amendments
Another significant example of LaRose trying this recently was his fronting of an effort to make it harder for voters to amend the Ohio Constitution, even though any evidence of a problem is severely lacking.
LaRose denied that he wanted to block abortion protections or anti-gerrymandering measures when he announced plans to hustle through a measure requiring ballot amendments get at least 60% of the vote, instead of the 50% plus one vote that’s currently needed.
But in a letter to Ohio House colleagues, LaRose’s legislative partner state Rep. Brian Stewart listed two reasons for them to support attacking voters’ ability to amend our constitution: abortion and gerrymandering.
The ongoing effort comes at the same time abortion rights advocates are working toward a ballot initiative to protect reproductive health care on the 2023 ballot, and new redistricting reform efforts also take shape.
LaRose’s motivations here are fairly transparent: Currying favor. As he sets his heart on the U.S. Senate, LaRose will require the support of every lunatic right-wing lawmaker and religious zealot lobbyist in his iPhone.
He will sell out every single Ohioan with absolutely devastating consequences on their lives, just to slake the thirst of his own ambition.
What have we learned?
Overall, what does all of LaRose’s unbridled hypocrisy about gerrymandering, election integrity, and constitutional amendments really teach us?
He is very careful about trying to say the right thing, but time after time he will always do the wrong thing. So we know that he knows better, and he doesn’t care.
LaRose will smile in voters’ faces as he stabs them in the back. He will disenfranchise veteran and military service voters, while jet-setting to D.C. to grovel for campaign cash from election deniers and un-American grifters.
LaRose will support rigging the game against voters whether with district maps, laws, or our ability to amend our own constitution, and then he will preen on national television about protecting election integrity.
Frank LaRose can not be trusted to do what’s best for the rule of law, Ohio voters, election integrity, American democracy, or representative government.
Frank LaRose can only be counted on to do what’s best for himself.
OCJ Editor-in-Chief and Columnist David DeWitt has been covering government, politics, and policy in Ohio since 2007, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and Plunderbund.com. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt
This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.