Frank LaRose will be sworn in Saturday as Ohio's next Secretary of State. The job has a number of responsibilities, but the one getting the most attention in recent years has been the secretary’s role in Ohio elections.
In a conversation with WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia, LaRose discussed his new position, including his focus on the conversation surrounding voter fraud and voter suppression.
“There tends to be this heated rhetoric – both from the right and from the left – that is really problematic,” LaRose said. “You hear, on the right, oftentimes this insistence that there’s systemic and widespread voter fraud and we need to do things to prevent that. That’s not true. There’s not widespread, systemic voter fraud. But at the same time, you hear on the left that there’s widespread voter suppression. And that’s equally not true.”
“Both of those occur,” LaRose continued. “They occur rarely, and they’re both very serious. We can tolerate no suppression and we can tolerate no fraud. Reasonable people should be able to agree that neither one of those is ever acceptable.”
LaRose says his track record over the past eight years in the state Senate shows he is able to work well across the aisle. But he rejects the idea of an “aisle” in the first place.
“In that room – in the state legislature – we’re all Ohioans,” he says.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s "use-it-or-lose-it" voting law, under which an inactive voter has six years to either vote in an election or update their information before the Secretary of State’s office moves to clear them from the rolls.
Jon Husted, the current Secretary of State who defended the process in court, recently sent “last call” notices to 275,000 voters at risk of being removed.
LaRose says the term “purge” is as politically-charged as the heated rhetoric surrounding voter fraud and oppression. He adds that while the Secretary’s duty is to maintain accurate voter rolls, that duty can involve adding convenient ways for people to update their voter registration.
Many of LaRose’s ideas use technology, such as the National Change of Address database or the Pew Trust’s ERIC system, a multi-state data-matching tool that aims to improve the accuracy of state voter registration systems.