DAYTON — Tens of thousands of Ohioans have already voted early in the November 8th election.
There are big races on the ballot in the Buckeye State, including the contests for governor and the state’s open U.S. Senate seat.
News Center 7 is looking at how early voting statistics from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office compared to the same point in early voting during Ohio’s last gubernatorial election in 2018.
Early voting is now into its third week here in Ohio, and the latest numbers from the Secretary of State’s Office show the number of Ohioans who have either early voted in person or who have requested an absentee ballot is up 2.7% from the same time in 2018.
More than 71,000 Ohioans had already voted early in person as of last Tuesday. That’s up more than 30,000 compared to the same point in early voting for the 2018 election here in Ohio.
Also in its third week is the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office’s new Public Integrity Division. It’s a dedicated team that will investigate any complaints of voter fraud or voter suppression here in Ohio, campaign finance violations, and maintaining accurate voter rolls.
News Center 7′s John Bedell spoke with Ohio Secretary of State Frank Larose about the new initiative. “With the addition of these professional investigators, we’ll be able to do a much more thorough and efficient job of investigating those reports when we get those,” LaRose said. “And the bottom line is this: voter fraud is rare. Voter suppression is also rare. But both of those are crimes that need to be taken seriously. And so if they occur, we will investigate it and we’ll catch you and you’ll face justice if you try to do either of those things.”
LaRose said the Public Integrity Unit can conduct thorough investigations and if needed, forward case files of evidence to a county prosecutor’s office or the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.
The Secretary of State also told WHIO the unit’s efforts are about strengthening confidence in Ohio’s proven election system and says his office wants to see more voter participation.
“We want to see more Ohioans go to the polls on Election Day or participate in early and absentee voting because they’re confident that elections are honest. And the bottom line is people participate in elections more often when they believe that they’re honest. And that’s what this is all about, is driving greater participation by increasing the trust that people have in our elections,” LaRose said.
LaRose said he wants to start by hiring two full-time investigators.
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