COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A number of candidates seeking elected seats in Ohio on Nov. 8 have challenged or cast doubt on the 2020 presidential election results.
Election deniers — as opponents and some neutral observers have called them — are mainly Republicans who have denied or questioned the integrity of President Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump, despite no proven evidence that fraud took place on a scale wide enough to have changed the outcome of the vote.
“Threats to democracy” have voters concerned
Regardless of their position, many Republicans are campaigning on the premise of restoring integrity in elections. It comes as “threats to democracy” is a concern among a growing portion of voters. In a recent poll by NBC4, The Hill, and Emerson College, it ranked second as a key issue among Ohioans surveyed.
Ohio Democratic Party spokesperson Matt Keyes said that for politicians like U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance or Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is Ohio’s chief elections officer and running for reelection, to call the integrity into question will ultimately hurt voters and their trust in the way elections are conducted.
“It’s nothing short of despicable to see Republican politicians attacking the foundation of our democracy just so they can score political points and further their own ambitions,” Keyes said.
How strongly a candidate has questioned the results has been a source of study. Several media outlets and nonprofit research organizations have sought to categorize comments surrounding debunked election fraud claims.
A combination of information from polling aggregation and political analysis site FiveThirtyEight, as well as analysis of social media posts and other documented public comments, show that at least three candidates on the ballot in central Ohio have previously rejected the 2020 results.
Senate, congressional seats
As recently as January, Vance told Ohio media outlets, including The Vindicator newspaper of Youngstown and Spectrum News, that he believed massive fraud drove former Trump’s loss.
Vance highlights “election integrity” as a campaign priority on his website, in part pushing for “an end to mass mail-in voting” — even though he voted via absentee himself in 2020 and 2021, according to records from the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
Rep. Jim Jordan — who has represented Ohio’s 4th District in Congress since 2007 and is running in a newly redrawn district that includes parts of Delaware County — was one of 147 federal lawmakers who raised objections to the Electoral College results that were certified around the Capitol riots of Jan. 6, 2021.
“We got all these irregularities around the country and in key states,” Jordan told Newsmax a week after Election Day 2020 in an interview he shared on his Twitter account. “All we’re saying is, let’s check it out.”
A number of Jordan’s tweets feature comments casting doubt on the presidential election.
Vance and Jordan have a “fully denied rating” from FiveThirtyEight.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, running for another term in Ohio’s 2nd District, is listed as “accepted with reservations.” In December 2020, he signed an amicus brief alongside Jordan asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn results in certain swing states.
Terpsehore Maras, an independent running for Ohio Secretary of State, was late to the campaign trail — LaRose originally blocked her name from the ballot — but she has reentered the race through an Ohio Supreme Court ruling.
Maras is a podcaster who has embraced claims that the election was rigged against Trump. Election integrity is one of her top campaign priorities, according to her website.
Her platform calls for the return to paper ballots, eliminating voting machines, and restoring “faith in voting Ohioans by bringing free and fair elections built on a model of transparency and rigid honesty,” according to her website.
The FiveThirtyEight analysis lists a number of other Republican statewide officials running for re-election, including LaRose and Gov. Mike DeWine, as having “accepted with reservation.”
DeWine was among the first prominent Republicans to recognize Biden’s win in November 2020, a move that drew a swift rebuke from Trump even though he has recently endorsed DeWine’s reelection campaign.
LaRose has consistently defended the integrity of Ohio’s elections, but he tweeted in February that the threat to election integrity is “an even bigger problem in other states where laws and leaders are weak.”
Even as LaRose called voter fraud in Ohio rare, he recently created a public integrity division to consolidate election investigative functions — such as campaign finance reporting and election law violations — and expand on others.
The Ohio Republican Party did not comment on the varying positions its endorsed candidates have taken on the previous election. Instead, chairman Bob Paduchik outlined why he believes Ohio voters are concerned about threats to democracy.
“Many people are rightly concerned with an unchecked bureaucracy and FBI who falsified FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act], offered a $1 million bounty for campaign dirt, and undermined and spied on a presidential campaign,” Paduchik said.