Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) visited local officials at the Pike County Board of Elections on Tuesday where he received a tour of the board of elections office, expressed his appreciation to the county’s elections workers, and spoke about his office’s ongoing work on elections issues during his time as secretary of state — a post to which he was elected in November 2018.
The visit to Pike County marks the 82nd out of 88 visits to Ohio’s county boards of election LaRose has made since taking office.
“I love serving as Ohio’s chief elections officer, but the fact is I don’t run elections. You all run elections,” LaRose told the local officials.
“As I’ve been traveling around, the number one reason I’ve enjoyed this chance to visit all the boards is the chance to learn from you all,” he said. “And so far, every board I’ve visited, I’ve learned something new.”
LaRose also highlighted some of the election successes he indicated that the state has had.
“We have a good story to tell that doesn’t get told often enough,” he said. “The fact is the work that you all do to run elections day in and day out largely goes unnoticed by the public unless something goes wrong. You all now the joke — the average person thinks that the board of elections works two days a year — we know that that’s far from true. In fact, it’s because of the hard work that you all do that people have been able to sort of take it for granted.”
LaRose said that the mark of a professional is someone who does something so well that they make it look effortless.
“And that’s what our board of elections officials are like,” he said. “They do such a good job running elections that the average person doesn’t have to think much about it, doesn’t have to worry much about it.”
LaRose indicated that the board of elections is entirely bipartisan, and yet at boards of election throughout the state workers are able to work together every day to run elections.
“The fact that that works at all is a success story,” he said.
He said he thinks the public needs to know that they should be confident in their elections.
LaRose also talked about security protocols that are in place.
“All you have to do is turn on any social media application and look at all of the crazy conspiracy theories that people come up with surrounding elections, and you know that people do not understand the way elections really work,” he said. “People have a fundamental misunderstanding of the security protocols that are in place to make sure that our elections are honest, and this is something that we as elections officials need to evangelize about. We need to go out there and talk to people about how secure our elections are and the fact that your voice will really be heard when you show up to vote and that when you vote you’re going to see your voice reflected in the final results that come across the screen on election night, and you should be confident of that.”
LaRose mentioned that the voting machines are never connected to the internet, and he said that the machines are tested and certified at the state and federal levels and then tested again before each election by bipartisan technical experts. The machines are also stored in a room with two locks on them, with the Republicans having one key and the Democrats another, he said.
He also mentioned that every part of an election is overseen by Republicans and Democrats.
LaRose told the News Watchman that next year’s election is expected to see the largest voter turnout in Ohio’s history.
“The trends would be that in 2016 we had the highest turnout election in our state’s history for a presidential election. In 2018, we had the highest turnout gubernatorial election in our state’s history, and so I wouldn’t be surprised, in fact, I fully expect that that trend will continue and that 2020 will be the highest turnout ever in our state’s history,” he said. “And that’s nothing but good news … as election officials, we want there to be a high turnout. We want people to get out and vote and participate.”
In order to prepare for massive voter turnout, LaRose said that the real preparation is done at the 88 county boards of election.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re out here visiting with them,” he said.
“Poll worker recruitment is a big thing,” he added. “We have a task force that we’ve started about six months ago where we’re coming up with best practices to share among the boards about how to do poll worker recruitment.”
In addition, he said his office’s security directive is geared towards making sure the state is ready for next year’s election. He also said that the state’s new voting machines are more efficient, easier to use and more secure.
“When the eyes of the world are on Ohio next year, we’re going to be ready,” he said. “Ohio will be ready to shine as we have been historically. The work that we do is important at the secretary of state’s office, but more importantly, it’s the work that’s done at 88 county boards of election, and my call to duty for anybody that’s concerned about, or interested in, or wants to help make sure that our elections are secure and fair and honest, is sign up to be a poll worker.”
LaRose also spoke about his office’s security directive, which he said is a 34-point checklist developed in collaboration with other entities, such as the U.S. Department of Homeland security, the Ohio Association of Elections Officials, and others. The counties were given the checklist in June and were given until the end of January to complete the checklist.
In addition to meeting with Pike County Board of Elections Director Shawna Burton, Deputy Director Teresa Wooldridge, and members of the office staff and members of the board, several of Pike County’s elected officials were on-hand for the meeting, including Pike County commissioners Tony Montgomery and Jerry Miller, Pike County Auditor Kayla Slusher, and Pike County Clerk of Courts Justin Brewster.