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LaRose certifies Ohio’s election tallies

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose speaks during a media tour of the Delaware County Board of Elections in Delaware, Ohio, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

COLUMBUS — Ohio’s elections chief certified results on Friday of a 2020 election that he said was almost flawlessly executed despite the pandemic, raising concern that President Donald Trump’s allegations of widespread fraud could be undercutting voter confidence in the process.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s certification delivered the state’s 18 electoral votes to Trump, who beat Democratic President-elect Joe Biden in the state by 8.03 percentage points.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine completed his part of the process soon afterward.

LaRose said Trump has every right to pursue legitimate legal claims but that it will do a disservice to democracy if his challenges to the outcome all turn out to be baseless. He said trusting election outcomes is “the very foundation of our way of life in a democracy.”

“When people invent conspiracies about elections that aren’t based in reality, that’s damaging and that’s irresponsible and shouldn’t happen,” LaRose said. “Because the fact is that elections are run better and more honestly than really I think they ever have been.”

LaRose said Ohio produced an extraordinary level of access for voters, setting records with nearly 6 million votes cast and a 74 percent turnout that tops the average of the past 20 years.

Ohio slashed the percentage of absentee mail-in ballots disqualified for voter error to less than half a percent this year — and it did so despite a surge in first-time voters, LaRose said.

Another record was made with 94 percent of the absentee ballots requested being returned, he said.

“Again, whether your favorite candidates won or lost, Ohioans can trust that this result was accurate and honest,” he said. “That’s our mission. That’s what we do here at the Secretary of State’s Office and that’s what we do in 88 county boards of elections.”

LaRose certified the presidential results in an event broadcast on government TV and streamed live on Facebook. He pushed back at Trump’s refusal to concede the election and to inaccurately claim its results are riddled with fraud — though without mentioning the president by name.

“Abraham Lincoln said the election belongs to the people. It was true then, and it’s just as true now,” he said.

LaRose stressed that point in a subsequent interview with The Associated Press.

“I’m patient enough to allow the president to present his evidence in a court of law and for the courts to hear that, but if there isn’t evidence to back up these claims that he’s making, then that’s a big problem,” he said. “And really it’s a disservice to the voters and to the many thousands of election officials that just ran a very challenging election.”

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden fell short of Trump in the state by 8.03 percentage points, giving Trump a slightly smaller margin of victory in the state than the 8.13 percentage points of four years ago.

After originally writing Ohio off, the former vice president made an 11th-hour campaign push into the state that Democrats have conceded was too little, too late.

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