News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Facebook

Robert Landon was elected auditor of Marion, Ohio, the same day he was charged with distributing illegal sample ballots.

Ohio GOP candidate faces week's most notable vote fraud charge

Two Republicans have been charged with distributing phony sample ballots in an Ohio city. The purported small-town crimes are misdemeanors but still stand as the most prominent allegations of election fraud so far in this off-year election.

GOP officials lambasted the timing of the charges as despicable. But the top prosecutor in the case says the law was clearly violated.

The incident is also a reminder that — while President Trump has made repeated, emphatic and unsubstantiated allegations about widespread voter fraud by the Democrats in 2016 and other contests — election malfeasance is a bipartisan problem and the biggest instance of election tampering in the 2018 midterm was perpetrated by Republicans, prompting the do-over of a North Carolina congressional race.


"For all the lies we've heard from @realDonaldTrump about voter fraud - he has yet to say a word about Republican-voter fraud in OH or in NC," Kurt Bardella, a prominent GOP operative and former congressional aide who recently quit the party, said on Twitter.

One of the men charged in Ohio on Election Day is 29-year-old Robert Landon, who went on to garner 53 percent in the contest for auditor of Marion, a city of 37,000 north of Columbus. The other is John Matthews, 53, a former county GOP chairman with a tainted past. The person whose complaint instigated the investigation was Democrat Kelly Carr, the incumbent who came up short in her bid for re-election.

State law says political parties and candidates may not distribute sample ballots and may not send any communication that purports to be from an elections board. Local prosecutor Mark Russell says a police report alleges Landon admitted to handing out campaign materials designed to look like sample ballots, with GOP candidates' names in all the local elections circled in black. The document was labeled as "produced by the Marion County Board of Elections web site" and also "Paid by the Marion Co. Republican Party."

Under Ohio law, the charges the two men face come with a penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Politics in Marion is a relatively modest enterprise. Landon had recently reported spending $6,026 from his campaign for T-shirts, a campaign website, car magnets and other campaign advertising, including mailers, flyers, Facebook ads and handouts.

This was not the first time Matthews' political activities have put him crosswise with the law. He was forced out after a dozen years as county Republican boss two years ago after he was sentenced to a year's probation and fined $4,000 for admitting to an election-related felony — placing 500 calls and sending 1,200 text messages on behalf of John Kasich, then the governor and a presidential candidate, while working at the Ohio Industrial Commission, a state agency.

News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Election security efforts should be expanded to cover the vendors who provide the equipment and other systems used to record and count votes, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice. Here a Miami-Dade County election worker checks voting machines for accuracy.

Election equipment vendors should face more security oversight, report argues

Efforts to fend off election hackers in 2020 and beyond have revolved around protecting ballot equipment and the databases of registered voters. Little attention has been focused on the vendors and their employees.

But the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice is proposing that the vendors who make election equipment and related systems be subjected to heightened oversight and vetting, much like defense contractors or others involved in national security.

"There is almost no federal regulation of the vendors that design and maintain the systems that allow us to determine who can vote, how they vote, or how their votes are counted and reported," according to a new report from the nonpartisan policy institute.

Keep reading... Show less