We’re all familiar with the lie that trump won the 2020 election. Even though trump won Ohio, a recently released analysis which concluded that the actual vote for trump was undercounted in every one of Ohio’s 88 counties. While trump won 74,563 votes (67.35%) in Clermont County, this analysis claims that there were actually 83,663 legitimate votes cast for him. The basis for these conclusions is opaque, but this analysis has been taken to heart by some local Republicans.
While reports keep coming out showing that we were close last January a coup to keep trump in power, he is out of power. The Republican “Super Ninja” audit of ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona concluded that the “actual” vote mirrored the official returns. trump’s lie about the 2020 election (one among tens of thousands of lies he has told) is nothing more than a psychological defense mechanism for trump and his hardcore supporters, right? No. The lie is being used as the justification for dramatic changes in election law.
Some states, like Georgia, have changed election procedures so that final votes counts will no longer be determined by non-partisan or bi-partisan bodies. Instead, the final results will be determined by bodies which currently have Republican majorities. Some states are considering legislation to give the state legislature the power to assign the state’s presidential electoral votes to a candidate, making the state’s popular vote effectively only advisory. We have not yet gone that far in Ohio.
So far, the only significant change to Ohio election law that has been signed into law is Senate Bill 80. For decades, judicial candidates in Ohio have run on a “non-partisan” ballot. That meant that, in the general election, no party identification appeared with the candidates’ names on the general election ballots. That is now history, for some judicial races. Starting next year, candidates for Supreme Court and the Ohio Courts of Appeals will be designated as Democrat or Republican on the ballot. However, lower court elections (Common Pleas Court General Division, Probate Court, Juvenile Court, Domestic Relations Court, Municipal Court, County Court) will continue to be non-partisan.
Why was this change made? Because Republicans believe, perhaps with some justification, that the non-partisan ballot allowed us to put three justices on the Ohio Supreme Court. The most common theory is that voters were confused by names, and the Republicans did a bad job informing their voters whom to vote for. A more likely scenario, in my opinion, is that voters, confronted with races in which there apparently were not Democrats or Republicans running, decided those races must not matter and did not vote for the judicial candidates.
Two potentially significant bills have been introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives: H.B. 294 and H.B. 387. While not identical, both bills seek to accomplish the same things: reduce or eliminate “no fault” mail-in voting (“no fault” means voting by mail without having to show a reason why you cannot vote in person), shorten the period for early in-person voting, eliminate ballot drop boxes, and require all voters to show a state-issued photo ID. Both bills are currently in committee. People with whom I have spoken who follow the General Assembly expect legislation to pass and be signed into law incorporating most of these restrictions on voting before the 2022 election.
Will there be other legislation intended to tilt the field in favor of the Republicans even more? Possibly. Other states are doing it and it appears to be a national Republican priority, justified by the lie that our elections are tainted by fraud. Should we speak out and tell our representatives we don’t want these bills to be enacted? Of course. Will that have any effect? No. These restrictions on voting, and possibly others, will become law. Republicans know that their share of the voting population is decreasing every year. Changing the rules to overcome the fact that they have lost the majority of voters is an existential issue for Republicans in a very literal sense. Our challenge will be to elect Democrats despite the tilted field.