Ohio’s top election official — Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose — paid a visit to Henry County Friday morning.

LaRose, elected to his first term in November, met with Henry County Board of Elections officials just before noon to discuss related voting issues generally and participate in a brief tour of their Oakwood Avenue headquarters.

Among other things, he noted the need for elections officials to be vigilant heading into the 2020 presidential election, which figures to attract lots of interest and produce much rhetoric.

“As we go into 2020 which I fear — let’s hope not — is going to be the most contentious election we’ve ever seen,” said LaRose, the former two-term state senator from Summit County. “I hope that’s not the case, but it’s starting to shape up that way. Emotions are high and the rhetoric is already sort of a full boil.

“We as elections officials need to be more thoughtful than ever about creating confidence among the voting public, so that they know their vote will be counted and counted accurately,” he told officials. “... one of the things we’re doing to make sure that that happens is our cyber security and our security, and it’s not just cyber because there’s a physical security component to it as well ... .”

By the end of January, LaRose claimed, “we’ll be able to say that Ohio’s the best prepared state in the nation for the very real threat that exists, and you all will be able to say to the voters in Henry County that you are as well prepared as you can be as well.”

LaRose also commented on other voting initiatives, including the recruitment of more poll workers, acquainting young voters with new voting machines and attempting to educate media about disinformation campaigns.

On the latter subject, he said “some members of the press have been targeted for these disinformation campaigns. What these campaigns seek to do,” he added, “is getting a credentialed, trusted news outlet to run something” that is untrue.

As such, his office plans to hold sessions for the media beginning next week. The first is scheduled in Franklin County, where Columbus is located.

Asked about the integrity of U.S. elections, LaRose conceded that there are occasionally issues, but this is often misrepresented to suggest a much larger problem. He said U.S. elections are the “best” and “most accurate” in the world.

“Is it imperfect?” he asked rhetorically. “Yes, because there’s humans involved. ... American elections are the most secure and most accurate in the world, and I can say that having traveled to quite a few countries as an elections observer, I wouldn’t trade what we have for anything else on Earth. The fact is that bad guys only have to be right once, but we have to be right every day, and so it’s an ongoing effort.”

However, he added that “nobody should buy into this notion that elections are a mess or rigged, or whatever else. That kind of hyperbole, especially when it comes from American politicians, are unfortunate. ... When problems exist we need to call them out and fix them, but we don’t need to dwell on them. ... Neither voter fraud, nor voter suppression are ever acceptable, and rational people should be able to say we will not tolerate fraud, we will not tolerate suppression, but the good news is they’re both rare.”

Unfortunately, commented LaRose, when politicians “constantly beat that drum as a way to motivate people to vote for them or donate to them or come to their rallies, it is deeply irresponsible because what it does is it corrodes the trust that people have in our elections. And when people lose trust they stop participating, and that’s ultimately the worst thing that we can have in our democracy.”

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