Frank LaRose, Ohio's Top Elections Official, GOP official, Warns That a Single Law is Going to Delay Election Results in other Midwest Swing States
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, said that in his state mail-in ballots will be among the first ballots counted on the night of the election. This is because Ohio law allows election clerks to process mail-in ballots as they arrive in the weeks and days before the election, so they’re ready to be counted and tabulated the moment polls close.
“We can start processing those right away, meaning cut the envelope, open, verify the information on it, put it through the scanner, but not hit tabulate. That can't happen until 7:30 on election night,” LaRose said. But LaRose noted that other Rust Belt swing states don’t have laws on the books that allow mail-in ballots to be processed in advance. “Now our friends up the road in Michigan, they can't start processing ballots until Election Day,” he said.
It’s not just Michigan, however. Wisconsin and Pennsylvania also can’t process the ballots in advance, meaning a delay in results is all but certain in these crucial battleground states.
Although he decisively lost the popular vote in 2016, President Trump’s narrow victories in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were enough for him to win in the Electoral College. In Michigan, for example, Trump won by roughly 10,000 votes, or about 0.2 percent of all votes cast.
“If you think about a big county like Wayne County – where Detroit is – I mean, they're going to have pallets and pallets of ballots waiting to get processed, that they really can't touch until election day. And that's unfortunate,” LaRose said. He added that it “could be days” before all mail ballots are counted.
Election experts have warned for months of a nightmare scenario where — because of these restrictive mail ballot rules in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — Trump may have a lead in votes on Election Night if most Republican voters cast ballots in person while most Democratic voters cast ballots by mail.
If that happens — and polling suggests it might — Trump could claim victory before mail ballots have been fully counted, and then accuse elections officials of stealing the election if mail ballots give Biden a lead.
Trump has already claimed over and over this year, without evidence, that there will be cheating and fraud in the election, especially through mail-in voting. In response, some Democrats have also insinuated that the election results may not be trustworthy: During her speech to the Democratic National Convention last week, Hillary Clinton warned that Trump may try to “sneak or steal his way” to reelection.
But even if neither candidate claims victory on the night of the election, a lengthy delay in reporting results could lead to all sorts of unforeseen problems in a country already on edge. Right- and left-wing activists have been battling in some cities for months amid high unemployment and a coronavirus outbreak that’s left some 180,000 Americans dead so far.
The irony is that while LaRose, a Republican, criticized the system in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the legislatures in all three states are totally controlled by his party. Republicans control the House and Senate in each of those states, as they do in Ohio as well.
And the Secretaries of State in Michigan and Pennsylvania — both Democrats — are both trying to get their respective legislatures to give their clerks the ability to process ballots before Election Day, to avoid or at least minimize delays in reporting the full vote total.
So far, the Republican...
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