Why Trump’s claim of a rigged Franklin County, Ohio election doesn’t add up

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Democratic majority, strict state record-keeping make rigging against Republican unlikely

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – After the Franklin County Board of Elections revealed Friday that nearly 50,000 absentee ballots had been sent to voters in wrong precincts, President Donald Trump was quick with a tweet claiming “a rigged election.”

But if one were to rig an election against Trump, this year’s Republican nominee, messing with ballots in one of Ohio’s most Democratic areas would be an unlikely place to do it.

Franklin County, Ohio’s most populous with 1.3 million residents, voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 26-point margin four years ago, 60%-34% among nearly 600,000 votes. Franklin County has also voted for the Democrat in every presidential election since 1996.

Furthermore, the number of voters nationwide who plan to cast ballots by mail this year instead of in person skews heavily toward Democratic nominee Joe Biden. 69% of absentee and mail-in voters say they plan to vote for Biden, compared to just 27% who say they are voting for Trump, according to new polling released Friday by Pew Research Center.

Checks and balances

The Franklin County Board of Elections says all 49,669 voters who were sent wrong absentee ballots will be sent corrected ones within 72 hours.

But if Trump’s worries come from the fact that 50,000 Franklin County voters will soon have two ballots in their possession, Ohio’s strict record-keeping when it comes to voting should offer reassurance.

Every absentee ballot sent to voters in Ohio – more than 2 million this year – includes an “identification envelope” with a unique barcode and which requires a voter to verify their identity with their Social Security number, driver’s license number or similar record.

When county boards of elections receive absentee ballots, a bipartisan team verifies electronically and manually the information on the identification envelopes. The ballots are then removed and counted.

The unique barcodes on each absentee ballot and envelope would also allow the Franklin County elections board to know which ballots to disregard if someone tried to vote with both ballots they were mailed.

“Ohioans should know they’re only going to be allowed to vote once,” Ohio’s top election official, Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, said in September.

Election officials respond

The Franklin County Board of Elections responded to Trump’s claim on Twitter, writing that it is fixing the mistake:

“Our board is bipartisan and our elections are fair. And every vote will be counted,” the tweet read in part.

LaRose backed up the board’s words and ensured “a safe, secure, and accurate election” in a statement to NBC4:

“The Franklin County Board of Elections made a serious mistake and they’ve been working hard to correct it. At the same time, it’s so important to remember that Ohio has bipartisan boards of elections for a reason – to ensure our elections are fair and no Party has sway over the other. Protections are in place to ensure only one ballot is counted for each voter. I’m confident that the Franklin County Board will be transparent in explaining those processes. The bottom line is this: Ohioans can be assured – we will have a safe, secure, and accurate election.”

Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R-Ohio)

Mail-in fraud extremely rare

The broader point here, though, according to elections officials, is that no matter how often President Trump claims massive voting fraud because of 2020’s increase in absentee and mail-in voting, there is no evidence of widespread mail-in ballot fraud in the United States.

Twenty years of voter fraud data compiled by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and analyzed by a vote-by-mail advocate and a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found just 204 instances of mail-in voting fraud out of 250 million total votes cast.

“There is no evidence that mail-balloting results in rampant voter fraud, nor that election officials lack the knowledge about how to protect against abuses,” Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, and professor Charles Stewart III wrote in The Hill in April.

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