New Initiative to Expand Investigative Resources & Focus on Election Integrity
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced today the creation of the first-ever Public Integrity Division in his office, part of an ongoing effort to build on Ohio’s record as a national leader in maintaining secure, accurate, and accessible elections.
The Public Integrity Division consolidates many of the office’s current investigative functions, including campaign finance reporting, voting system certification, voter registration integrity, the investigation of election law violations, data retention & transparency, and cybersecurity protocols.
Ohioans deserve to have confidence and faith in their election system. While Ohio has developed a strong national reputation for secure, accurate, and accessible elections, a national trend is growing that indicates a crisis of confidence in the electoral process. In fact, recent polling shows Americans are losing confidence in the state of our democracy.
“One in five registered voters in a new national NBC News poll said the most important issue facing the country is threats to democracy, but the exact nature of those threats varies widely by political party.”
“This is a responsibility I take very seriously because this quite simply is about defending democracy,” said LaRose. “Our elections are being scrutinized like never before, and any lack of absolute confidence in the accuracy and honesty of those elections weakens the very foundation of our democracy. It’s the duty of my office to earn and maintain that trust.”
While both voter fraud and suppression have proven to be exceedingly rare in Ohio, any transgression of either breaches the promise made to Ohio voters and hinders confidence in the outcome of elections. Since 2020, 31 different contests have ended in ties across Ohio with many dozens of others coming down to a very small number or even being decided by a single vote. In these cases, a single vote can impact the trajectory of a community. One key goal of these efforts is increased participation resulting from elevated levels of voter confidence. By strengthening investigative capabilities as well as enhancing the transparency of security protocols & outcomes, voters will have greater confidence their vote has value, and the integrity of Ohio’s election system is secure.
Ohio's chief law officer and collaborative partner in pursuing allegations of voter fraud, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, supports the Secretary's Public Integrity Division initiative. "As the chief election officer for our state it makes sense that election integrity be an integral focus to their office," said Attorney General Yost. "This work falls firmly within the Secretary of State’s purview and my team stands ready to assist. Properly enforcing election laws is the best way to keep Ohio’s elections honest and secure.”
LaRose has already directed more financial and operational resources into election integrity and cybersecurity protocols than any previous secretary of state, including the implementation of mandatory pre- and post-election audits and the regular cross-checking of voter registration data both within Ohio and through records provided by exchange with other states. The Secretary of State’s Public Integrity Division will begin operation on October 10, just before Ohio’s voter registration deadline (October 11) and the start of early voting (October 12). New investigators will be integrated into the division after the 2022 General Election.
Learn more about the Public Integrity Division at OhioSoS.gov/PublicIntegrity
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Public Integrity Division?
The Public Integrity Division will house three investigative sections that encompass the statutory duties of the Secretary of State: Election Administration, Campaign Finance, and Business Services. The division consolidates many of the office’s current investigative functions, including campaign finance reporting, voting system certification, voter list maintenance, cybersecurity protocols, and the investigation of election law violations.
What will the Public Integrity Division be doing?
The Public Integrity Division will investigate and pursue attempts to obstruct, intimidate, or interfere with any elector in registering or voting. We will provide cybersecurity and physical security best practices and track county compliance. We will enhance Ohio’s data security by improving voter registration and list maintenance practices and assisting boards in the performance of post-election audits. We will continue ensuring campaign finance reports are timely filed and in compliance with Ohio’s campaign finance laws. Additionally, on the business services side of our operation, we will investigate complaints involving Ohio notaries, assist Ohio businesses by helping them protect themselves against cybercrime or business identity theft, and investigate any other concerns regarding the incorporation of new businesses in Ohio. An additional goal of the division will be to recommend legislative or administrative changes to improve transparency and integrity in these areas of public policy.
Doesn’t the Secretary of State’s office already do all this?
To a degree, but it will be done much more thoroughly and efficiently following this innovative change. Ohio has made a name for itself by always working to innovate and improve. Currently, the important functions of the Secretary of State’s office which directly address the integrity of our electoral system are spread across multiple existing divisions. For example, over the course of multiple administrations, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office has utilized election administrators to investigate alleged cases of voter fraud or suppression. This additional and time-consuming task distracts from the ability of election administrators to focus on their primary mission of implementing successful elections. The same dynamic exists at county boards of elections where administrators are frequently asked to investigate potential crimes. Beginning in late 2022, the Public Integrity Division will integrate a dedicated team of professional experienced investigators whose primary focus will be to investigate any alleged cases of voter fraud, suppression, campaign finance violations, and more.
Why is this change needed?
There is currently a crisis of confidence among Americans in our nation’s electoral system. Poll after poll highlights concerns about the state of our democracy. By shining a brighter light on the proven system that works here in Ohio, Secretary LaRose hopes to strengthen that confidence and help more Americans have faith in an electoral system that works for them.
Are these changes allowed according to Ohio law?
Absolutely. In fact, current law calls for it. Ohio Revised Code states the Secretary of State is required to “investigate the administration of election laws, frauds, and irregularities in elections in any county, and report violations of election laws to the attorney general or prosecuting attorney, or both, for prosecution.” [O.R.C. 3501.05(N)(1)] LaRose plans to expand the resources dedicated to those investigations and further solidify the office’s statutory partnership with the Ohio Attorney General’s office and the state’s 88 county prosecutors.
Will any additional investigators be hired prior to the November general election?
No. It’s expected that any additional investigators will be integrated into the office in late 2022. is message and any response to it may
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