Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s timely demolition of fraud rumors in 12th District results: editorial

August 26, 2018

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s timely demolition of fraud rumors in 12th District results: editorial

Three cheers for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted for denouncing disinformation that rumormongers have tried to spread about the Aug. 7 special congressional election in central Ohio.

Husted forcefully disproved a raft of false statements emanating from social media accounts and what might fairly be termed conspiracy media about the 12th Congressional District vote. The district, a reliably Republican one, is made up of Delaware, Licking and Morrow counties; and parts of Franklin, Marion, Muskingum and Richland counties.

The winner of the special vote to finish out the term of Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, per Friday’s official canvass results, is state Sen. Troy Balderson, a Zanesville Republican. He narrowly defeated the Democrat, Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor of Columbus, by 1,680 votes, less than a percentage point.

Tiberi resigned early this year to take a private-sector job. Balderson and O’Connor will face each other again on Nov. 6, vying for a full, two-year congressional term.

One rumor Husted demolished: that the registrations of a few 12th District voters were fraudulent or that these voters were dead because they’re recorded as being older than 116.

Fact: This reflects a fluke in how registrations were recorded after mid-1974, when Ohio started requiring people registering to vote to provide a birthdate, For those already registered, county boards of elections used “placeholder dates,” Husted’s office explained. “This is why some registrations have dates like 1900 or 1800 listed. These individuals met the requirements at the time to become registered voters and remain legally qualified electors today,” his statement explained.

Fact-checking would have forestalled the rumors, but facts are to rumormongers what Lysol is to germs.

Then, in what Husted’s office said was “the result of human error and not some conspiracy,” the Franklin County Board of Elections discovered it had briefly misplaced (and then only in a manner of speaking) 588 ballots from a polling place in the Columbus suburb of Worthington. When counted, the additional ballots narrowed – slightly – Republican Balderson’s lead over Democrat O’Connor. That stoked claims that Democrats would keep “finding” ballots till O’Connor could appear to have beaten Balderson.

Fact: The mistake was just that, a mistake. Discovering errors like this is the purpose of the post-election checks that are required for the official canvass before results are certified. Another example: Muskingum County’s “oops” last week when officials announced they’d found three more absentee ballots hiding in plain sight in a cubby hole that most of the board of elections workers were too short to see. (Two of the ballots turned out to be for O’Connor, one for Balderson.)

Each of the 88 county boards of elections in Ohio is composed of two Democrats and two Republicans. To be effective, any anti-GOP (or anti-Democratic) conspiracy would require the collaboration of at least one board member of the opposite party. Likelihood: virtually zero.

Then there was actress Alyssa Milano, who evidently passed up a promising future as a political analyst to work in Hollywood. On Election Night, Milano tweeted that “the Green Party votes tonight [in the 12th District race] are Russian meddling. Why else would anyone cast a protest vote in Ohio when there’s so much at stake?” The Green Party’s 12th District congressional candidate was Joe Manchik.

You know what sucks? Because of our unwillingness to pass policy that protects our election integrity, I immediately think the Green Party votes tonight are Russian meddling. Why else would anyone cast a protest vote in Ohio when there’s so much at stake?#OH12— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) August 8, 2018

Fact: Husted said Milano’s tweet demonstrated a person who was “making erroneous claims with no basis in reality.” Even assuming that Green voters might otherwise be Democratic voters – a patronizing view of Greens’ political convictions – Manchik’s votes (1,165 in the final certified count) wouldn’t have won the election for O’Connor.

More public officials should speak out, as Jon Husted has, when rumormongers seek to undermine Ohioans’ and Americans’ confidence in democratic processes. As Husted himself so eloquently put it in his Aug. 13 statement: “To the bad actors out there who want chaos and to erode the people’s confidence in our elections, enough is enough.”

We couldn’t say it better ourselves. 

About our editorials: Editorials express the view of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer -- the senior leadership and editorial-writing staff. As is traditional, editorials are unsigned and intended to be seen as the voice of the news organization.   

Have something to say about this topic?

* Send a letter to the editor, which will be considered for print publication.

* Email general questions about our editorial board or comments on this editorial to Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, at esullivan@cleveland.com.

* Use the comments to share your thoughts. Then, stay informed when readers reply to your comments by using the “Follow” option at the top of the comments, & look for updates via the small blue bell in the lower right as you look at more stories on cleveland.com.

Update hourly