Even as Republican Donald Trump warns of “large-scale voter fraud,” analysts say it would be nearly impossible in Ohio for one political party to steal the outcome election from another.
The elections and the vote counting in Ohio are conducted by bipartisan boards of elections in the state’s 88 counties, meaning only an improbable alliance and virtually impossible to keep secret between Democrats and Republicans in all 88 counties could change the election.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said the system of elections in place is “actually more secure than it’s ever been in our nation’s history.”
He said Ohio’s system is transparent, includes extensive checks and balances and has a verified voter paper trail for every vote. At the same time, the election rolls are “cleaner and more up to date than they’ve ever been.”
“We have found a balance between making it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” he said. “Swing states like Ohio have seen the hottest fires, but we are the strongest steel in the sense of having been through this before. We’ve learned from previous election cycles and built a better election system than most states have.”
Husted said he will vote for Trump in November.
Those who work on the bipartisan boards of elections say the system is set up to prevent just the sort of fraud Trump warns about.
“It would take Mission Impossible,” said Terry Casey, a Republican consultant in Columbus who sat on the Franklin County Board of Elections for 14 years and is a former chairman of the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners.
“Rigging the election in Ohio is physically almost impossible because it so diversified among 88 counties,” Casey said. “Every board of election and board membership and staffing is equal among Republicans and Democrats.”
“None of the voting equipment that actually does manage the voting is hooked up to the Internet and all that equipment has multiple memories and backups as protection in the event of any kind of recount needed,” Casey said.
But as independent polls show Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton widening her lead nationally over Trump, the New York real estate developer and his closest allies have stepped up charges that the election is rigged.
“You want me to tell you the election in Philadelphia and Chicago is going to be fair?” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on CNN this weekend. “I would have to be a moron to say that.”
The Trump complaints appear to be having an impact. A poll conducted between last Thursday and Sunday by Politico.com and the polling firm Morning Consult found that 73 percent of Republicans believe the election could be taken away from Trump.
Yet Rick Hasen, a professor specializing in election law at the University of California-Irvine law school, said while voter fraud does exist in some states, “it’s usually in small elections. To do this on a large scale would be very difficult to do.”
Hasen said fears by Trump allies that people in Pennsylvania could vote anywhere from five to 15 times are overblown, saying it is “basically impossible.”
“It requires registering to vote in multiple places, going to multiple places to vote, or voting in the names of other people multiple times,” Hasen said.
Edward C. Foley, a constitutional law professor at The Ohio State University Moritz School of Law, said the word “rigging” implies a systematic and intentional attempt to manipulate the results of the election.
He said that states are at far greater risk of administrative errors – such as Florida’s butterfly ballots and hanging chads in 2000, than a concentrated effort in advance to fix the results.
“It’s very far-fetched,” he said.
But he acknowledges that there are occasional flaws in the system. And both sides have complained about it.
In 2004, U.S. House Democrats held hearings into accusations that Ohio Republicans worked to suppress Democratic vote in crucial areas of the state as Republican President George W. Bush carried Ohio by 118,775 votes.
But though Democratic nominee John F. Kerry said in a statement it was “critical to investigate and understand” any voting irregularity, he made clear he did not believe it would have changed the outcome in Ohio.
Husted said he’s concerned about presidential candidates – Democratic or Republican – crying foul about the process.
“Leaders should – if there’s a problem – tell us where the problem is and help us fix it,” he said. “But you can’t make a sweeping generalization about voter fraud when you’re a leader without having evidence or facts to back up that claim.”